The Sun Devils softball team finished its 2021 campaign with an outstanding 33-16 record. Now, the softball players face the daunting task of replacing the talent that left.
However, players and coaches have kept a positive outlook on the situation at hand.
"It's not about replacing the players that left," senior outfielder Yannira Acuña said. "We just need to build off what we had last year."
The ASU softball team has been the epitome of success after 22 straight winning seasons and there is optimism the team can continue the streak with five newcomers ready to make a significant impact.
In August, the Sun Devils welcomed freshmen Cydney Sanders, Liliana Thomas and Mac Morgan. Head coach Trisha Ford also brought in two transfers, a graduate student from Ole Miss Jessica Puk and senior from Mizzou Jazmyn Rollin.
Rollin is the Sun Devils' most highly touted newcomer as she was able to gain some notoriety from her time plying at Mizzou. During Rollin's first year, she was selected to play on the SEC's all-freshman team after batting .331 and registering 10 home runs and 41 RBIs. In her sophomore year, she recorded 11 multi-hit games before the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
Before even stepping foot on campus, the coaches made strong pitches to their future players and made it very difficult for them to turn down an offer to play in Tempe.
"I just knew from the conversations I had with the coaches that they believed in me," Puk said. "Something was telling me that this is a place where I belong and it has been the best decision I've probably ever made."
Upon arriving at ASU, all of the new players were welcomed with open arms by the returning Sun Devils.
"They really take you under their wing," Morgan said. " They show you around the ballpark and what is expected at practice. It's not only we hang out on the field, they invite you over to their house to cook dinner because they know freshmen live in the dorms and are limited when it comes to food options. They make sure that you have everything you need. They make sure you're doing OK and check up on you. It's so awesome to have such good teammates."
While the freshmen may be inexperienced, they have already received high praise from their teammates and have made sure when the opportunity arrives, they will be prepared.
"They listen and they're willing to take as much information that anybody is willing to give them and are very open to trying new things on the field. It's a great freshman class," Acuña said.
Despite some teammates only knowing each other for a matter of months, it has felt for some like they have been together for years. They not only spend every waking moment together on the field, but it's off-field where the team is able to spend the most time with each other.
"Being together five to six days a week, we learn about each other and how we all work," Acuña said. "We learn about each other's strengths and weaknesses. We learn to respect each other. That's a huge part of our team and has really helped build chemistry."
The team has not only had the opportunity to duel with each other in practice, but were also able to partake in fall softball games which benefited them the most in preparing for a long, grueling season.
Throughout practice this year, the mood has been described as extremely competitive as the girls on the team know there are high expectations to uphold.
"We are probably one of the most competitive teams in the country," Morgan said. "I've never seen anything like it. I thought I was competitive, but after seeing the team it's amazing and so much fun."
Although the Sun Devils have had tremendous success the past few seasons, there's a new energy around Farrington Stadium.
"You can just feel the care and love that everyone on this team has for each other which I think is super special," Puk said. "I just know at the end of the day everyone on our team has each other's backs no matter what."
After months of preparation, the Sun Devils are more than ready to kick off the season against California Baptist in the Kajikawa Classic on Feb. 10 at 4 p.m. MST.