After losing the Division II regional semifinal last May, Canfield's softball team walked off the field in Akron as dejectedly as any squad that just had its championship dreams dashed.
Despite that season ending defeat, there was still some glimmer of hope for the defending All American Conference champions. Many of the girls who dotted the diamond for the Lady Cardinals in that regional round game were underclassmen meaning that the chances of an All American repeat in 2014 are excellent. Canfield head coach Ray Melewski has grander thoughts in mind however.
''Each year we try to go farther,'' Melewski said. ''This year is no different. We want to be playing for state.''
Although the team has plenty of players with varsity experience, the roster is void of any seniors. There are, however, nine juniors who play well above their class rank. At the top of that class is shortstop Rachel Tinkey. Tinkey led the team in many offensive categories a year ago.
''Our infield is strong,'' said Melewski. ''Our defense will carry us.''
Joining Tinkey are fellow juniors Darby Cockrell at first base, outfielder/corner infielder Kara Rothbauer, outfielders Karina Kennedy and Marina Sturgeon and infielder/outfielder Carly Trefethern.
Sophomore catcher Amelia Manenti will return following an incredible rookie season both behind the plate and at the plate. Kayla Troxil is another sophomore who should see a lot of varsity action this year. Three freshmen that should also play a pivotal role in Coach Melewski's lineup are second baseman Maura Kennedy, outfielder Caroline Griswold and possible pitcher Bridget Durkin. Vying with Durkin for time in the pitching circle are juniors Allison Fabry and Megan Kusilek as well as Troxil. When Abby Baker graduated last summer she took with her most of Canfield's innings pitched. Finding another arm or two is Melewski's main plan this preseason.
''I feel good about our defense and our offense, but we are inexperienced in pitching,'' Melewski said. ''We need to find some pitching. We have four or five pitchers who are all competing for the varsity. I don't know if we have a true number one so we may have to use a few different pitchers.''
''(Howland, Poland and Fitch) are really strong,'' Melewski said. ''It should be a good battle between us all year.''
Opening Day for Canfield will actually be a split double header on Saturday at Liberty then at Western Reserve. Canfield's home opener is Monday against Warren Harding. The Cardinals will begin defense of their AAC crown against Niles on April 3. A trip to the Wendy's Classic in Ashland on the weekend of April 11 is also a highlight of the Cardinals' schedule.
In the remaining days before the start of the regular season, Coach Melewski will use a few exhibition games to sort out his starting rotation.
''We have girls with good mechanics,'' the coach said, ''We just don't have the experience. We hope to get that during these scrimmages.''