Sullivan and her Lady Spartans head into the season with plenty of optimism. Last spring, the Spartans logged the program’s finest season ever when they won a record 25 games, competed in the East Coast Conference playoffs for the first time since 2006 and were ranked in the NCAA’s East Region poll for most of the season. They followed that with a very successful fall season, winning seven of 11 games.
STAC lost eight seniors to graduation in May, but Sullivan has replenished the roster with eight freshmen and will ask several players from a strong sophomore class to make major contributions this season. Her 21-player roster features players from six states including five from California.
“Last year’s senior class improved every year and carried the program to new heights,” said Sullivan, who notched her 150th career win last season. “We bring back a few impact players but our success will surely be based on the performance of players stepping up into more expanded roles and a few new faces.”
Senior tri-captain Adrianna Dilal (Rochester, N.Y.) will anchor the staff and will be one of the premier players in the conference. In her first year at STAC last spring, Dilal registered a 13-10 record and led the team in earned run average (2.03) and strikeouts (98) to earn second-team All-ECC honors. She was named the preseason Pitcher of the Year in a poll of ECC coaches. Freshman Kessia Cisneros (Hacienda Heights, Calif.) pitched well in the fall season and will give Sullivan a reliable starter. Junior Paige Toothaker (Ashburnham, Mass.) will compete for starting assignments and freshman Jai Santiago (Albany, N.Y.) rounds out the staff.
Sullivan’s trademark on offense has been to apply pressure on opposing defenses with bunting and aggressive base running. This year’s club has plenty of team speed and a handful of power threats to give Sullivan a potentially well rounded hitting attack.
Centerfield Missy Sadler (Milton, N.Y.) will be the centerpiece of the offense and will provide speed and power to complement her solid and often spectacular play in center field. Outfielders Teammates Me’-Lani Kendle (Moreno Valley, Calif.), Valerie Winalski (East Granby, Conn.), Selena Davis (Teaneck, N.J.) and Emilee Mayer (Frisco, Tx.) are speedsters who will provide quickness on offense and defense. Dilal, Amanda Schweitzer (Stony Point, N.Y.), Elisa Oliande (Hacienda Heights, Calif.) and Amanda Castro (Long Beach, Calif.) will supply the lineup’s extra-base power. Sullivan also expects offensive contributions from sophomores Sarah Williams (New Hyde Park, N.Y.), Kim Astrologo (Mahopac, N.Y.), Nikki MacDonald (Riverdale, N.J.) and Lauren Christensen (Salem, N.Y.).
Centerfielder Sadler and first baseman Taylor Sullivan (Suffern, N.Y.,), who is a senior tri-captain, will anchor the team’s defense. Williams is the leading candidate to win the starting third base job while Astrologo, MacDonald, Castro, Oilande and freshman Rudae Gadson (Westbrookville, N.Y.) vie for playing time at shortstop and second base. Schweitzer, Christensen, tri-captain Morgan Santora (Saddle Brook, N.J.) and freshman Kaley Pedersen (Riverside, Calif.) give Sullivan a deep reservoir of catchers. Athena Zak (Clarence, N.Y.) will provide infield depth.
The Lady Spartans will face one of the most challenging schedules in the 36-year history of the program. They will face a 46-game slate that will include a 12-game, 10-day road trip to Winter Haven, Florida where they will face seven opponents who won 30 games or more in 2019. The ECC will again be one of the most formidable Div. II leagues in the nation with defending conference champion University of Bridgeport and New York Institute of Technology figuring to field strong teams. STAC was picked to finish in second place in a preseason poll of ECC coaches, the program’s best showing ever in the annual survey. Caldwell University, Adelphi University and the University of New Haven will be good non-conference foes.
“Our Florida trip will be especially important this year as we try to find the right combinations,” said Sullivan. “I am confident that we can compete with the best teams in our conference. It will be another exciting year.”