Veteran Preston looking to learn from, move past slow start

Even successful veteran teams need a reminder of just how hard winning can be. That’s exactly what the Preston softball squad received in the early season with losses to Archbishop Molloy and a rare league defeat to Maria Regina. The Panthers, who have lost in three straight CHSAA Archdiocesan finals, don’t think it is a bad thing to face early adversity.

“It showed us that we still have to work for what we want,” senior pitcher Julianna Orrico said.

Classmate and catcher Danielle Kilber, who has missed time with a dislocated finger on her throwing hands, said the early struggles will actually take away some of the pressure this group was feeling. They still understand it is their last chance to bring home the elusive and first title.

“I feel like we have a little less pressure now,” Kibler said. “We use to have those undefeated seasons.”

If Preston does finally claim the championship it will do so under a new coach. Rachel Mazza left after 16 season to become the head coach at The College of New Rochelle. Long-time assistant Frank Toscano took over and it has made for a smooth transition. He is more than confident in the experience group led by Kibler, Orrico and fellow seniors Madeline Giannini, Victoria Rivera and Melissa Knecht.

He watched his team bounce back from losing to Maria Regina be beating defending CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens champion St. Francis Prep 3-1 in the Bronx last Saturday. Orrico showed an improved rise ball while allowing just three hits and striking out eight. Outfielder Brianna Rodriguez collected two hits and drove in two runs.

“My girls are veterans,” Toscano said. “I’m not worried about these one or two games. I know they will turn it around. They know what that have to do.”

Orrico remains one of the city most dominant pitchers and Kibler as feared a hitter as any. Giannini’s speed makes her weapon on defense and at plate. Rivera provides pop and is the team’s No. 2 starter. The seniors will need help. Preston will learn heavily on talented junior catcher Bianca Mastropietro, Rodriguez and Ashley Puig. The team’s skills and athleticism makes many of the pieces interchangeable.

It is why Preston feels that once everything gets rolling and Kibler is healthy it has all the weapons and the experience to earn the school’s first ever Archdiocesan crown.

“We were always a good team and we always fell just that little bit short” Orrico said. “Now that this is the last year, it is really pumping us up. This is really our last year possible for it to happen.”

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