BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - A new era of Gov. Livingston softball begins in 2014 as Mike Roof takes over the head coaching duties. Roof is replacing Highlander legendary Coach Rick Iacono, who brought the Highlanders to four straight trips to the Union County Tournament final, including back-to-back championships.
"New" to the position, but Coach Mike Roof is not a stranger to the program. Roof has a familiarity with the players and they are familiar with his coaching style -- having been part the program the past 8 years, winning four straight Union County JV titles before last season. Roof also is coach to the successful GL varsity girls soccer program since 2003.
Roof will be working with all returning players with the void of long-time ace pitcher, Jordan Robbins, who graduated. The pitching will drive the success of the season said Roof.
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The key returners are hinged on how Grace Sansalone and Carolynne Goldbeck return from injury. Sansalone missed the entire season last year and Goldbeck was hurt in the semis with an ACL injury. This could impact fielding and hitting.
"I expect a lot of good things from us. Grace Sansalone coming back is a huge lift for us," said Roof.
Returning players: Carolynne Goldbeck (Sr., 3B), Kacie Worswick (Sr., C), Caroline Hewitt (Sr., 1B), Taylor Hendrzak (Jr., 2B), Stephanie Bade (Jr., LF), Grace Sansalone (Sr., SS), Alex Foley (Jr., 1B), Colleen Frank (Sr., OF), Payton Murphy (Sr., OF/P), Melissa Quinn (Sr., OF), Olivia Hendrzak (Jr., OF)
There could be a few surprises ready to burst -- Freshman Madison Phillips is new to the program, bringing something different to the mound -- "Olivia Emanuel and Hayley Berliner may surprise you as newcomers," said Roof.
Although Roof knows that he can count on his team of returning players, he'd like to see improvements across the board in hitting and defense.
Opening day for the Lady Highlanders played out the way Roof had hoped. They came out swinging, placing the balls in gaps and making productive outs to earn the 10-2 victory over Linden on Tuesday.
"I can't complain -- I wasn't sure how it would play out. The defense played in a way that I couldn't expect much more," said Roof.
"Today, they cleaned up the defensive stuff from the pre-season where we had some trouble. Base running was great. They hit the ball and made contact. We were placing balls in gaps. When we made outs, they were productive," said Roof.
Freshman pitcher Madison Phillips allowed two runs on seven hits, struck out four and allowed no walks. "Maddie is really proving herself as a freshman, she is stepping upto the plate big time. She is really strong, she comes in at every batter -- she did a really good job," said senior catcher Kacie Worswick.
Payton Murphy went 2 for 3, scoring twice for the Lady Highlanders.
"I was pleasantly surprised with hitting. We hit with runners in scoring positions which I was really pleased about. We drove the runners around, which is huge," said Roof. Scoring in each of the six innings with four runs scored in the fourth.
"We cleaned up our mistakes we were making during the scrimmages. We limited them, we did really well. We stepped it up big time," said Worswick.
Gov. Livingston will play three consecutive away games starting with New Providence on Thursday at 4 p.m., Westfield on Friday and Voorhees on Saturday.