by Mark Cheffey
The 2020 PHS girls softball team will move ahead under new leadership.
Alexis Van Nostrand takes over as head coach and is joined by Macy Bross as her assistant, putting the team in the hands of two former all-state catchers who were part of state championship teams as Lady Panthers.
“I’m am super excited to take over a program that I had so much success in,” said Van Nostrand, who moves up from the assistant spot under Jill Arch, not only giving her a better perspective of the program, but also an increased knowledge of the role head coaches have.
“Being Jill’s assistant for one year really let me see all the things a head coach has to take care of. It was a good transition year for sure,” Van Nostrand said.
As for her own coaching philosophy going into her first year as head coach, Van Nostrand indicated she will be a stickler, but not overly tough.
“I’d say I’m a pretty easy going coach, but I want things done the right way,” Van Nostrand said. “Pay attention to the small details of the game and the rest should take care of itself.
“Softball is a game of repetition so if you get really good at the physical skills, all we should be concerned about is the mental skills.”
Bross brings some coaching experience to the team having moved back from Clark County where she was a head coach.
“Having Coach Bross as an assistant is awesome,” Van Nostrand said. “She brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the program and it is so nice to bounce ideas off of each other and come up with the best solutions.”
Following up on a second-place state finish, Van Nostrand is excited to lead a program that his returned to prominence.
“We are fortunate to have girls who go and play softball on their own all summer long,” she said. “Playing that many ball games in the summer makes school softball seem easy.
“The ultimate goal is to always be a state contender each year, and I see that being a reachable goal this season if the girls continue to work hard.”
She’s also encouraged by the team’s response during the first two weeks of pre-season practice.
“This group has so much potential, and they listen to Coach Bross and me well,” Van Nostrand said. “It is nice to keep traditions of the program alive being on the coaching side of things.”
Van Nostrand sees a team that is solid and versatile, two good things to have for immediate competitiveness.
“We have many girls who can play different positions, and a majority of the girls hit the ball hard every at bat,” Van Nostrand said. “Losing seven seniors last year as opened up quite a few spots on varsity which is awesome, but it has caused a lack of leadership on the field.
“I’m confident that someone will step up when needed, but right now that is a struggle.”
The COVID-19 pandemic did have an effect on how things went during the off-season.
“Because of COVID we did not get to play other teams this summer like we usually get to,” Van Nostrand said. “We were able to condition and practice as a team after the middle of June but not the same time frame that a normal summer would allow.
“It also presents a challenge during pre-season practice and the upcoming season.
“We have to take temperatures at the start of every team event, and we also sign in and out when coming/going to practice,” VanNostrand said. “Coaches are required to wear masks the entire time players are present and players are required to wear them when they aren’t exerting energy, so in the dugout basically.”
VanNostrand has a core of players from last year’s season including starters Abbey Redd, a sophomore catcher, Sophie Hoerr, a senior center fielder, Lydia Althoff, a senior pitcher, and Jazlin Gottman, a junior pitcher and first baseman.
Players she expects to fill open positions include, Caroline Kizer, a senior right fielder, juniors Jansen Jeutte, shortstop, Madi Rager, second base, and Hannah Mitchell, utility, sophomore Kennedy Wilson, utility, and freshmen Lexie Peuster, left field, Hailey Kroeger, utility, and Alaina Loman, utility.
Wilson will also join Althoff and Gottman to handle the mound duties.
As for the opposition, VanNostrand is not sure how the Clarence Cannon Conference will shake out, but her team has a legitimate shot at it.
“I think we might be the school that graduated the most people, but I still think we are a strong contender for the top spot in the conference,” she said.
As for the non-conference schedule, it will be a welcome challenge, according to Van Nostrand, as long as it stays together during the pandemic.
“We always play some class 4 schools which is great for us to see bigger schools,” Van Nostrand said. “I hope we get to play in our usual tournaments, so we can play schools we don’t typically see. So challenging yes, but very beneficial to us.”
While the usual pre-season jamborees were cancelled, Palmyra did play an exhibition game Friday at Canton, losing 8-1.
The Lady Panthers were out-hit 7-3, and committed two fielding errors.
Althoff, Gottman and Kennedy Wilson shared the pitching.