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New conference, same old expectations for Poland girls

March 27, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Poland's softball team will be the final athletic group from the school to play a game in the new Northeast 8 Conference.

As with most of the other Poland teams, these Lady Bulldogs will be a huge favorite to capture the initial conference crown. One of the reasons for that is the fact that the Bulldogs have a large contingent returning from last season's sectional championship squad.

"We need to replace three seniors," said third-year head coach Jim Serich in a recent phone conversation, "but we have a nice nucleus coming back. We have seven returning starters, which makes it an easier transition (into the new league). They're real comfortable with where they're at."

The two most comfortable Bulldogs can be found in the pitching circle. Senior Ashley Wire and junior Brooke Bobby are a pair of pitchers that will shoulder the load for Serich. He's just fine with that.

"We will count on them to get us there," said Serich about his dynamic throwing duo.

The coach can also count upon some steady defense in the infield due to slick fielding senior Lauren Sienkiewicz. She'll be moving over to shortstop from second base and that transition doesn't worry her coach one bit.

"It should be a very smooth move for her," Serich said.

Another strong defender will be catcher Cami Lattanzio. The sophomore shined behind the dish as a freshman and provided plenty of power at the plate.

"(Lattanzio) was an All-League catcher who hit .500 last year," Serich said.

Also helping to anchor Poland's batting order will be senior slugger Torri Moderalli.

"(Moderalli) hit the ball well as a designated hitter," said Serich. "She's a nice bat to have in the lineup."

Poland has a pair of girls that haven't been in many varsity games, but will be expected to contribute a lot more in 2019. Junior Racheal Wolfe and sophomore Jordan Olson can do a lot of things offensively, which has their coach eager to write their names on his lineup card.

"(Wolfe and Olson) will have a great chance to get into the starting lineup," Serich said.

Senior Justine Carney, junior Mia Dicioccio, junior Ally Nittoli and sensational sophomore Jackie Grisdale will also be needed to make some offensive noise. Nittoli and Grisdale were huge contributors in 2018.

There are also a trio of first-year Bulldog girls who may become household names by the end of April according to the coach.

"We have a good freshmen class," Serich noted. "Abby Farmer, Connie Cougras and Julia Eich are three that may be able to help us."

One possible obstacle for the Bulldogs' coach is mixing the underclassmen in with the more experienced players.

"Plugging in some of the newer kids into varsity is a concern," Serich said. "The good thing is there aren't many holes to fill."

Poland's largest potholes may be on its lengthy schedule. The NE8 calls for back-to-back games each Monday and Tuesday and there is a total of 14 league games. Poland only had to play 10 when it was part of the All American Conference. One would think that having so many games against conference cousins may be a deterrent, but Serich doesn't see it that way.

"I like it," he said. "It'll be a unique schedule. It's an interesting challenge because there's such good competition (in the conference)."

Poland's ladies will also play some stern competition outside of the NE8. There are games at New Castle Union, Steubenville and a tournament at Akron Firestone slated. Serich's club will also meet state champion West Virginia Central Catholic. All of those grueling non-conference matches were made with a purpose.

"It's not easy, but it was done to be challenging and get us (state) tournament tested," Serich said.

Of course, it is Ohio, so Poland's first scheduled game of the season was already rained/snowed out last Saturday. Due to that weather delay, the Bulldogs new season opener was supposed to be this past Monday at Jefferson.



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