SPRINGFIELD, NJ - During her college years, Coach Pamela de la Llave played softball at the Division 1 level for Marist College. This is her third year as head coach of the Jonathan Dayton High School softball team. The first two years were very good ones and good things are expected again this season.
We started the interview discussing goals for the season. The Coach said the first goal for the season start is, “Having a winning record at the end of the season.” The second goal is “Winning the Union County Conference Mountain Division.” She would like the team to repeat last year’s effort by “Clutching the 1 seed in the State Tournament for the second year in a row.” Then she put making it back to the North 2, Group 1 State Finals and winning the North 2 Group 1 State Finals as the final goals.
This year’s team includes Marinna Kwinta, one of last year’s New Jersey stat leaders. She was seventh in the state with 50 hits. Missing from the team is Brianna Koref who was 21st with 39 RBIs, 12th with six triples and 13th with eight home runs. She graduated last year.
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Coach de la Llave comments about her senior Team Captains
Our Captains this year are Marinna Kwinta, Karly Fitzpatrick, and Arianna DeMartino. They are also our three seniors. They are great kids who are incredibly coachable, always trying to make improvements and become a better player, do well academically, and are real role models for the younger girls on the team. They are motivated to get back to the state finals one last time before they graduate.
Coach de la Llave comments about her starting line-up composed of returning players
Senior Marinna Kwinta: She is a four year varsity player and captain, and is on track to reach her 100th career hit this year. Whenever we rally, most of the time Marinna is the start of it. Her athleticism, speed, and natural athletic ability make her a serious threat all around and she has been doing an unbelievable job for us.
Senior Karly Fitzpatrick: She is a four year varsity player and captain. Karly, as always, does a great job catching for us. Teams are afraid to run on her because she has such a presence behind the plate and rarely lets any balls get by her. She’s incredibly tough and isn’t afraid to sacrifice her body in order to make a play or stop the ball. There is nobody who can do a better job than her behind the plate, and we are fortunate to have her.
Senior Arianna DeMartino: Arianna is also a four year varsity player and captain. She is one of those girls that you can put anywhere defensively because you know they will adapt and do great. She has been playing second base for us for two years. She has great range and is very smooth when she fields the ball. She works incredibly well with our short stop and I love watching them turn double plays for us.
Junior Holly Wilson is a third year varsity player and will be on the mound for us this year. Her attitude and poise are impressive. She is an absolute work horse. She LOVES softball and it shows. She is a threat both offensively and defensively.
Junior Amanda Lau is our third year varsity player and short stop. She is one of those kids who is good at whatever they do because of their natural athletic ability. Like Arianna, she is very smooth when she fields the ball and comes up with some amazing plays. She also gives us power at the plate and speed on the bases.
Junior Arianna Griffith is a third year varsity player and first basemen this year. She excels at the plate. She has been hitting the ball harder than I've ever seen her hit before. I can't wait to see what great things she does for us in the four spot this year. She can have an unbelievable season if she stays focused and trusts her abilities.
Junior Angelina Cacioppo is our returning left fielder. She played club ball this past summer and it shows. She has a cannon in the outfield and isn't afraid to dive after a ball to make a great catch. Hitting wise, she is one of the strongest on our team. It looks like she is going to have a great season.
Sophomore Maggie Phillips is a second year varsity player and will be playing right field for us this year. She is an all around talented athlete and great person. She did a phenomenal job for us last year both defensively and offensively and batted .500 as a freshman. We have her batting in the lead-off spot because of her consistency and poise. I know she will do a great job for us in the one spot.
Sophomore Sophia Ritter will be playing third base this year. She also played club ball over the summer and her arm has gotten much stronger. I feel confident that she will do a great job for us over at third base once she gets settled into her new position.
Victoria Delia - Freshman
Casey Janker - Freshman
Jessica Miller - Freshman
Janna Wohl - Freshman
Maya Mehlman - Freshman
Faith Scott - Freshman
Haeley Santos – Freshman
About the large group of freshman on the team, the coach said, “The freshmen look very promising and there is a lot of potential. I can't wait to see the type of players that these girls develop into over the next few years.”
About getting ready for the season during what seemed a longer than normal winter, “We had the girls work with our strength and conditioning coach, Coach Cugliari, who does a phenomenal job customizing workouts to fit the girls needs and get them in shape for the season. We also have been doing a lot of hitting drills and the girls are looking good. It can sometimes be difficult to stay motivated and focused when you are practicing in the gym for weeks at a time, but we do our best by changing up drills and play some tunes to keep the girls moving.”
During the season, records are kept and stats published. The qualities of a stat leader are “…mental toughness, consistency, and confidence. Softball is a game of failure. There are a lot of things that try to get in your way and distract you from your goals. If you want to be one of the greats, you need to overcome all of the obstacles you are faced with, you need to learn from the mistakes, and stay on track to reach your goals. You have to trust yourself and your capabilities. You can't dwell on errors or strike outs. There is no time for that.”
Dayton is a Group 1 team and not included in the New Jersey’s Top 50. To be a Top 50 team requires, “…commitment and hard work. Softball is becoming much more popular and the competition can be pretty fierce. If you want to be great, you need to be 100% committed to the sport. Today most girls play all year round, and those are usually the girls that make the biggest impact. This year we have five starters who played club ball over the past year. The improvement we have seen in them since ending our season in June has been fantastic. That's what makes this group of girls so special. They care and they want to improve. They know it takes a lot of work to win and they are willing to put that work in. Making the top 50 is not an easy task. It is going to take a tremendous amount of work from everyone involved. Is it something I think our team can achieve this year? Absolutely, we are looking better and better every day.”
Coach de la Llave played at West Orange High School and continued her softball career by playing Division 1 softball at Marist College. She was the Center Fielder. This is her third year as Head Coach at Dayton and Dave Rennie is the Assistant Coach. They worked together during the 2012 season when the head coach at the time missed the season do to health issues. That season the program made history by capturing their first Division title ever. Since then the program has been getting better and better.
She finished the interview by saying that in her opinion, “The 2016 Dayton softball team was the best team the school has ever seen. “ Their accomplishments were many. They included finishing with a 22-5 record; having Marinna Kwinta and Brianna Koref named to the State All Group 1 team; clutching the 1 seed going into the state tournament; and making it to the North 2, Group 1 State Finals. They had never clutched the 1 seed or made it to the State Finals. The season was historic. She said, “The girls were 100% on board with winning. Watching them play was electrifying. Nothing was stopping them or standing in their way. They all worked together as a true TEAM. It was an unbelievable experience and I can only hope this year will be just as memorable.”