Malvern – With a bevy of new players comprising the Villa Maria Academy softball roster this spring, first-year coach Nikki Hartshorn’s first task was to establish an environment that would allow the opportunity for each player to succeed.
Establishing a team building program accompanied with off-season workouts, Hartshorn worked with senior captains Maddie Abbott, Sarah Rose Jonik, Emily Cosgrove and Colleen Rohr to put together a road map for success for a team that advanced to the second round of last year’s PIAA Class AAA state tournament.
“From the start I knew the biggest problem I had to face was bringing together a roster that included key returnees along with many new faces,” said Hartshorn, who took over as head coach after spending the past two years as an assistant. “My top priority was putting in team building activities along with holding off-season workouts to make sure we were all on the same page.”
“The seniors and coaching staff have been so amazing,” said freshman Fran Delvsicio. “They have been so kind and welcoming. No matter how we do they always know what to say and how to pick us up.”
Hartshorn’s worries have been put to rest thanks to key senior leadership who have helped blaze a path for the younger kids that has allowed Villa Maria (7-2 overall, 7-0 AACA) to bounce back from a 1-2 start that included hard fought losses to AAAA powers Neshaminy and Hatboro-Horsham to roll off six consecutive wins with their latest victory coming in a dominating fashion over host Mount St. Joseph’s on April 21.
Maddie Abbott delivered a scintillating outing allowing only two hits while striking out nine and getting the first strike on 16 of the 20 hitters she faced.
“Maddie is getting better with every season,” said Hartshorn. “Her composure is great and she doesn’t quit. When I took over I hired her pitching coach Dr. Bill Miller as an assistant and that has paid off.”
“This year has been great,” said Abbott. “I trust my field behind me and I feel if we do fall behind we can rally with our bats. Having my pitching coach from when I started playing at age nine has definitely helped.”
Offensively freshman Fran Delviscio delivered the big blow with a three-run line drive home run to center that gave Villa a 4-0 lead and the entire cushion Abbott would need.
“I was looking for a pitch to drive and the pitcher threw one down the middle that I was able to slice through the wind,” said Delviscio, who finished 2-3 with three RBI’s one run scored against Mount St. Joseph.”
“That hit by Fran was great, said Abbott. “We only had a 1-0 lead at the time and Fran hit a bomb that gave us momentum.”
Delviscio’s hit was the latest example of the balanced attack Villa has received this season. In earlier victories, Villa has received key play from different players including sophomore Lisa Becker, freshman Alyssa Viscardo and junior Bri Wright.
“I feel blessed,” said Hartshorn. “I am truly blessed the girls have entrusted me and played the game mentally and to see them flourish, be nurtured and to see coming out on top leaves me excited for the rest of the season.”
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