Lutheran West opens the 2022 season with six returning starters and several others with varsity experience.
While short on numbers, the Longhorns have plenty of talent.
“I am excited to see the growth the girls have made in the offseason,” said Lutheran West coach Amy Sullivan, the 2021 Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division Co-Coach of the Year. “We are physically stronger and, from what I have seen so far, mentally tougher. We return a very strong core and have some exciting underclassmen who bring awesome energy to the team.”
With eight all-conference players returning, the Longhorns seek to improve upon last season’s 9-13 record.
All six returning starters earned All-CVC honors last spring.
Seniors Lily Thomas, Kristen Zak, and Carino Cedeno, and sophomore Leslie Sullivan all earned second-team honors while seniors Makayla Spelich and Savannah Crowley both were honorable mention selections.
Junior Eva Luenger and sophomore Shannon Ahern also earned second-team honors.
Zak and Sullivan also earned honorable mention all-district and all-Cuyahoga County honors.
Sullivan will throw most of the innings for the Longhorns this spring. Sophomore Larissa Sullivan, a lefty, will provide relief.
“Leslie has really improved her strength and speed,” Coach Sullivan said. “She has grown into the role and I am looking forward to watching her compete. (Larissa) threw every inning for our JV team last spring and we are looking forward to seeing her progression.”
Thomas returns to the starting job at first base.
“Lily only had one defensive error last spring,” Sullivan said. “She is such a huge leader for us. She runs the field and really takes care of the girls on the dirt.”
Cedeno, who will play basketball at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, and Zak, an Ashland University signee, will fill two of the three outfield roles.
“They bring a ton of speed and both have cannons for arms,” Sullivan said. “Offensively, I look for them to cause chaos at the top of the lineup.”
Spelich and Crowley are in a battle for the starting role behind the plate with seniors Madeleine Kerlee and Emily Morales.
Freshman Aryana Garcia is projected to start at shortstop while senior Kayla Kren, a returning varsity player, and sophomore Kellie Kashubeck will split time at second base.
“Both girls have put a ton of work in during the offseason to improve both their fielding and hitting,” Sullivan said. “We are really excited to see Aryana Garcia in a uniform. She brings a ton of speed and quickness to both our offensive and defensive lineup.”
Junior Gisselle Cedeno has made quite an impression during the preseason and is likely to start in right field.
“Her work ethic is amazing and she gives 110-percent every practice,” Sullivan said.
While Sullivan is confident her team has the experience and talent to show improvement this season, she also knows her program is low on numbers and remaining healthy will play an important role in the team’s success this spring.
“Our biggest challenge is the size of our roster,” Sullivan said. “We didn’t have the numbers, or experience, to have a JV team, so we are carrying 19 on the varsity roster. This provides us with coverage if we have injuries or illnesses, but our younger girls don’t have a ton of softball experience. Our core is really leaning into the teaching process to help bridge the gap for some of the girls. Keeping everyone engaged will be a challenge. We are building the program and that takes patience and time.”
Despite the challenges her team will face, Sullivan put together a challenging schedule to help prepare the Longhorns for the postseason.
“My expectation for this season is to compete in each and every game we play,” she said. “We have a tough schedule, we didn’t shy away from playing good teams, but with our experience, we should be in every game. Our strength lies in the closeness of the girls. They truly love each other. They cheer each other’s successes and really lift each other in tough times. They genuinely have a great time together.”