SHRUB OAK, N.Y.— Lakeland’s Colleen Walsh has had a stellar career on the softball field, recording 50 wins and tallying more than 500 strikeouts as a pitcher and will be going to play the sport in college next year at Sacred Heart University.
Before she plays softball for the defending Section 1 Class A finalist Hornets this spring, she has business on the basketball court to attend to.
Walsh, a returning captain who is a 5-foot-9 senior guard/forward, is coming off a campaign where she was all-league and led the team in points (15.2 per game) and rebounds (7.6) last season.
Third-year Lakeland coach Miranda Lustig is ecstatic that she has Walsh for one more year to lead her squad.
“She is the type of leader coaches wish they had on their team,” Lustig said. “She is a great role model for her teammates and has a passion that you can’t teach kids.”
The Hornets also return a trio of returning starters this winter in 5-9 sophomore guard Alexa Cole and two juniors, 5-6 forward Jess Ascencao and 5-8 forward Kelsey Walsh.
“My expectations are the same for every player on our team. We demand excellence from each other every single day,” said Lustig, whose team finished 5-16 last season, as the No. 20 seed and lost at No. 13 John Jay-Cross River 59-54 in the Class A outbracket round.
Colleen Walsh, 5-7 guard Krista Verrino, 5-7 guard/forward Val Potenza and 5-8 guard Rieley Walsh are all returning seniors who have brought an exciting energy to practice since the first day of preseason, according to Lustig.
“I am looking forward to seeing what they produce together for their senior year,” Lustig said.
Lustig also has a talented group of newcomers that she will be able to rely on this season in 5-4 sophomore guard Sarah Carroll, 5-4 junior guard Claire McKenna, 5-9 freshman forward Brianna Monte, 5-4 junior guard Rose DeMuro and 5-4 junior guard Kayla Bugeya.
The strength of the team is the rapport that it has built together with each other for the last few campaigns, according to Lustig.
“They work hard and have fun together,” Lustig said. “It’s hard to be successful if you aren’t having fun. Our core seven girls have been playing with me for the past three years; they are really starting to jell together. Our newcomers have a great group to look up to and learn from.”
As for goals and expectations, Lustig would like to see her squad back in the sectionals but more importantly to just improve daily.
“Our main goal is to continue to be better than we were the day before,” Lustig said.
Lakeland will start its season by hosting the Eighth Annual Carolyn Conroy Memorial Basketball Tournament.
Pearl River will play Clarkstown North to kick things off in the opening-round game at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, with the Hornets playing the other opening-round contest vs. Horace Greeley at 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2.
The consolation and championship games of the tournament will be at 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3.