Competing in the East Suburban Catholic Conference against powerhouse teams like Benet, Marist and Marian Catholic, coupled with several tough non-conference games this season, the Fenwick softball team is eager to take on a rugged schedule. If only Mother Nature starts to cooperate, the antsy Friars should be good to go.
"We're hoping to finally play some games this week," said Fenwick coach Mike Marrese. "The weather has caused several cancellations for every team. This is my 11th year coaching high school softball, and I can't remember a season like this one where we still haven't played any games this late into the season.
"Last week, we practiced outside for just the fourth time in five weeks. Everything else has been indoors, but the team has kept a very positive attitude."
Using the Fenwick gym, the Friars have worked on all aspects of the game ranging from fielding drills, long toss, baserunning, and even time in a long-hitting tunnel (an invaluable practice tool used by both the softball and baseball teams).
"I want at least 50 percent [of practice] dedicated to hitting," Marrese said. "I don't use a pitching machine. It's too easy and predictable for the hitters. One of our pitchers or me throws live to the hitters."
The Friars have also been diligently working on defense and the fundamentals of the game.
"We have 18 players and each one of them will have an opportunity to show us what she can do," Marrese said. "I need to figure out our team identity. Hopefully, we're playing our best softball from the middle of the season on into the playoffs.
"We have tremendous leadership, especially from our seniors. I've never been into designating team captains; I believe in natural leadership."
While the Friars are a senior-laden squad, their pitching staff offers a nice mix of experience and youth. Junior Jess Mrozek is the top starter, with sophomore Val Perrelli and senior Liv Soja completing the rotation.
Juniors Ashley Parenti, Jenna Cairo and Mrozek are expected to carry the load as well, offensively and defensively.
With such a delayed start to the season, the Friars have also found time for some good old-fashioned fun.
"My wife and I had the players over to our house for a pasta party," Marrese said. "It was a lot of fun. It's a chance for the girls to show their personalities and become closer as a team."
In Marrese's estimation, a winning attitude is the key for Fenwick this season.
"Heading into every season, my goals are to win conference and win state," he said. "I think you have to set high goals. Marist, Marian Catholic and Benet are all outstanding teams, but I really feel like we are the silent giant in our conference."
Fenwick visits Elmwood Park and Riverside-Brookfield, respectively, on Tuesday and Wednesday this week (both 4:30 p.m. games). The Friars return to the Priory on Thursday for an 11 a.m. game against visiting Prosser.