Dartmouth Softball: All About Doing the Little Things in 2013

February signals the start of collegiate softball and the Dartmouth softball team is eager to get back on the diamond after a strong finish to the 2012 season. The Big Green closed the season with two wins over Ivy League champion, Harvard becoming the only squad to take two wins off the Crimson in league action.

Dartmouth is poised to be even better in 2013 as they return 11 letterwinners, including Ivy League honorable mention pitcher Kristen Rumley (Katy, Texas) who threw 151 strikeouts in her rookie campaign, good enough for second place on the Big Green's single-season list.

The Big Green are looking to improve on back-to-back second-place showings in the North Division and will look to an impressive group of returners as well as five rookies. Donning the Green and White for the first time this season are: Kathy Dzienkowski (Austin, Texas), Alex Jarvis (Tustin, Calif.), Brianna Lohmann (Bell Glade, Fla.), Morgan McCalmon (Norman, Okla.), Katie McEachern (San Diego, Calif.) and Kelsey Miller (Mansfield, Texas). Dartmouth also adds All-American Ali Hart to the coaching staff.   Hart comes to Dartmouth after a stellar collegiate career at Williams College.

With the season just days away, Dartmouth is wrapping up preseason and looking forward to opening the 2013 campaign.  Head coach Rachel Hanson enters her third year with as much depth as she has had and it's starting to pay off in dividends.

"I really like where we are right now, but we have a long road ahead of us still," said Hanson.  "We have a lot of growing still to do, but the culture of the team is in a great place. We have a high level of accountability, the right attitude and the right effort from the team. I'm very excited about where we are and the path that we are on."

The Big Green upperclassmen have been a large part of shaping the culture of the Dartmouth softball team and probably none more influential than two-time captain and second baseman Hillary Hubert (Grant Park, Ill.). Hubert, a second team All-Ivy selection as a sophomore and Dartmouth's Tough As Nails award winner in 2012, is joined by fellow seniors Morgan Wharton (Binghamton, N.Y.) and Katie Adams (Kent, Wash.). Additionally, the junior class is very strong and is spearheaded by Kara Curosh (Munster, Ind.) who was the lone player to start each contest for Dartmouth in 2012, tallying a team-best 38 hits.

"Regardless of contribution level last season, all of our returners have done a great job of setting the bar very high," said Hanson. "Having very high expectations for themselves, both in terms of production and going about their business in the right way, and setting those standards for the underclassmen by letting them know this is what Dartmouth softball is about. They have embraced the idea that Dartmouth softball does extra, does one more, works harder and puts in more work. I have been very proud of our returners for stepping up to the plate and setting the bar at a whole new level."

The Big Green rookies are also poised to contribute to the resurgence of the program. The five-member class comes to Hanover from all over the country and has Hanson and her staff very excited.

"I am very excited about this freshman class," said Hanson. "We worked really hard hitting the recruiting trail and I think we're seeing some of that pay off. The freshmen haven't done anything yet so it's a bit early to say who is going to stand out or not, but I do think that this is a very competitive class both physically and mentally and they have already been contributing in big ways. There are a lot of different talents in this group."

The group features a catcher in Dzienkowski and a pitcher in McCalmon as well as outfielder Lohmann and infielders Jarvis and McEachern, as well as utility player Miller.

"Dzienkowski does a great job behind the plate, really picking up a lot of things that, for a freshman catcher, can be tough to learn right away, and Miller has a great swing.

McEachern is athletic and hits the ball well while Lohmann immediately came in and made a stamp. She hits the heck out of the ball while playing in top gear all the time. 

 Jarvis has a great attitude, is a great teammate and really hustles all the time. McCalmon is obviously helping out with our pitching staff and she's immediately come in and challenged for a lot of time right way.

This group is very diverse with many talents so we're excited about the freshman class as a whole."

Not only is Hanson excited and impressed by what she's seen out of the rookies, but she is also pleased with the way that the team is taking initiative to become better.

"I think something exciting is the "behind-the scenes" work that many of our players are putting in," said Hanson.  "I know that players are getting in there, getting after it and putting in the extra work and that's something that our team has made a standard. I'm excited to see how that pays off for the team as a whole this season."

When asked about what some of her team's strength's will be, Hanson gave a simple answer that holds the key to what Dartmouth softball is all about.

"One of the biggest things that we have been focused on in the preseason is doing the little things the right way. We've been spending a lot of time on the detail work that, in our sport, pays off big down the road," said Hanson.  "We've talked a lot about what it takes to be a champion and to play at a level of excellence. We need to be focused in on the small things.

Our approach this year is going to be huge for us. We have the talent, and the question is, are we going to stick to our plan of having the right approach and doing the little things the right way?"

This team will be tested early and often by a challenging schedule. The Big Green will play 50 games this season and will spend the first two months of the season on the road.  Dartmouth opens the 2013 slate on Feb. 22 at the Stetson Tournament, the first of three preseason tournaments for the Big Green. Dartmouth will travel to Washington D.C., for a tournament as well as play in the South Florida Invitational and the FAU Invitational.

"We embrace the idea of challenge," said Hanson. "We want to put ourselves in tough situations and although we would never take for granted any Ivy League game, we want it to feel routine. When we hit Ivy League play we want to know that we've faced all the tough situations, top-notch talent and this is now just a game that we're playing. We've put in the work and put ourselves in challenging situations, both in being on the road a lot and in the level of competition that we have faced, so that we feel very prepared for the Ivy League.

The home slate opens April 5th against South Division foe, Cornell, and is the first of seven home dates for the Big Green this season. The Big Green will also host a StrikeOut Cancer game on April 24 vs. Albany.

When asked about the Ivy League race this season, Hanson used the term "wide open" and was noticeably excited about the Big Green's prospects.

"I think it's going to be a really fun year in the Ivy League this year," said Hanson. "I predict that it will come down to the last weekend or two, which always makes for a very exciting race and we should be right there in the thick of it. Obviously, there is some tough competition on both sides. Harvard is always tough to beat. They graduated some key seniors but they never rebuild, seems like they just reload, so I'm sure they will be tough. There are no games we can take for granted and I think that this year is going to be particularly fun because I think it will be a wide open race."

The snow isn't yet melted from snowstorm Nemo and the temperatures are still freezing, but you can bet the Dartmouth softball team is going to heat things up at the Dartmouth Softball Park this spring.