The weather outside may be unbearable, but it won’t stop the Iona College softball season, which begins on Feb. 22 at the UNC Greensboro Tournament in Greensboro, NC.
The Gaels will look to start the season off strong under first-year Head Coach Katie Jansson. Jansson, who is no stranger to Iona, is a 2014 graduate and former four-year starting catcher. Jansson is excited to help the team that helped her become the person she is today.
“Iona was my home for four years as a student athlete so being able to come back to the program that helped shape who I am today and be able to share those experiences with the girls on the team now is just incredible,” Jansson said. “Being able to be head coach of this program is truly a dream come true.”
With the recent weather not necessarily in the Gaels’ favor, it has been a little tricky to prepare for the upcoming season.
“We’ve been stuck inside because of the weather,” Jansson said. “It’s been really cold, so we get outside when we can to do full team defense and that kind of stuff.,”
Besides Iona’s regular team practices, the Gaels can be found inside the weight room lifting with their strength coach twice a week.
“We’ve just been going after it every day and grinding it out with facility space,” Jansson said. “Indoor practices can get a little monotonous so we’re doing the best we can to try and change it up and do some new exciting things.”
Jansson’s inaugural season will feature a roster consisting of 15 returners and a freshmen class consisting of Jessica Chilcott, Hannah Collins, Kara Zazzaro and Brianna Buck. With a strong presence of upperclassmen, Jansson is hoping that the freshmen will be able to learn a lot from them.
“By them competing with one another and working hard every day, that is what’s going to push everyone else on the team to get better and that’s our goal,” Jansson said.
The Gaels, who play a hefty fall season, are confident their freshmean will be fully assimilated to Division I softball when opening day rolls around.
“They have been caught up to speed,” Jansson said. “They don’t seem like freshmean anymore, which is nice.”
Iona’s pitching staff features four arms, who bring something different to the table for the Gaels.
The Gaels will have two upperclassmen returning to the mound in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, standouts senior Alana Evans and junior Marnie Skinner. Skinner was voted as a preseason All-MAAC Pitcher by coaches from throughout the league after finishing with the fourth lowest ERA in the conference in 2018. Freshman pitcher Kara Zazzaro was also able to see a lot of innings in the fall season.
“[Kara] looked really good and you know Marnie, a veteran, she’s been an all-conference kid so being able to have Kara learn from her and Alana is great,” Jansson said.
Sophomore Samantha Bender, who was able to see quite a bit of innings last season, will look to get more time this season.
“I think the four of them do a really great job working together and learning from each other, which is a huge piece,” Jansson said.