The Husson University Eagles will take on the nation’s No. 5-ranked Tufts University Jumbos in their first-ever NCAA Division III Tournament appearance Thursday at 10 a.m. at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.
Tufts University, based in Medford, Mass., is 38-1 and the top seed for the East Regional while the 26-14 Eagles are the eighth seed in the double-elimination tournament.
Completing the field are No. 2 Rhode Island College (40-5), No. 3 Coast Guard Academy (36-5-1), No. 4 Endicott (37-7), No. 5 Emerson (32-8), No. 6 Bridgewater State (28-9) and No. 7 Springfield (20-22).
The Husson women know they will be heavy underdogs but they are excited about the challenge.
“We don’t have anything to lose. We’re just going to play our best and hope for the best,” said Husson second baseman Cassie Berry.
“Any team we’re going to play there is going to be a great team. The only thing we can do is play it like any other game. We’ll play hard. Softball is a game in which anything can happen,” said Husson pitcher Nicole Sargent, the Most Valuable Player of the North Atlantic Conference Tournament.
Third-year Husson coach Amanda Davey said she told her players, “it doesn’t matter who we play, it’s how we play. We’ve got to play our best.”
The Eagles have surprised their coach because, with the exception of junior Berry, everyone else who has played is a sophomore or a freshman.
“I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year. It has been anything but that,” said Davey.
Sargent said their youth has been an advantage.
“Because we’re all in the same age group, we’ve connected a lot better,” said Sargent.
Sophomore left fielder Dottie Cameron agreed, saying the team has exceptional chemistry.
“If you don’t get along, you don’t play well together,” said Cameron. “We’ve all clicked.”
“And we always stay positive,” said Berry.
Davey said despite her team’s youth, “they’ve handled pressure well and have worked real well together.”
They erased 3-0 and 2-0 deficits in the NAC Tournament to beat the University of Maine-Farmington twice.
She expected them to be a good hitting team and they have been as they will take a team batting average of .316 into the tourney. Pacing the attack have been Cameron (.417, 2 home runs, 23 RBIs, team-high 33 runs), Berry (.354-4-30) and Sargent (.336-7-28).
“We spend a lot of time on hitting and everybody on the team makes contact,” said Cameron.
Sargent (13-4 record) and fellow sophomores Megan Richard (6-4) and Caitlin LeBorgne (6-6) have handled the pitching chores.
“I’m surprised how well they’ve done considering their inexperience. Caitlin pitched last year but Megan didn’t pitch at all and Nicole threw only 17 innings,” said Davey.
Berry said Davey is one of the best coaches she has ever played for and has taught the team a lot.