With less than a week from opening day, USF softball is focused on returning to its contention status.
While the Bulls won 32 games last season, they missed the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2018.
This is a motivation factor for senior infielder Jordyn Kadlub and the Bulls. The All-American Athletic Conference second team member was a part of the 2022 team that appeared in the Tallahassee Regional.
“I think not making it last year was really hard for people, and we just don’t ever want to feel that again,” Kadlub said.
USF will need to rely on its strengths to get back to the Regionals. Coming into the year, Coach Ken Eriksen cited defense as the Bulls’ calling card.
Eriksen said this year’s squad is “probably the most athletic he’s seen at USF.”
“I feel really good about putting a product out there right now, these guys know what they’re doing,” Eriksen said.
Senior utility Marissa Trivelpiece played a vital role last year. She led the team in nearly every statistical category in her first season at USF after transferring from Michigan State in 2022.
Trivelpiece said there’s one trait the team’s defense possesses that makes them a threat — versatility. She said she played in nearly every position last year including first base — a position she had never played before.
“I think that really helps because you just have a versatile knowledge and athletic ability throughout that you don’t have to worry if this person is playing a new spot, can they do the job,” Trivelpiece said.
This versatility is perhaps most prevalent in the Bulls’ infield. Trivelpiece is joined by sophomore infielder Kathy Garcia-Soto, who is the reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year.
In their opening tournament, this depth could be a deciding factor when they face teams such as No. 17 UF and Michigan — who is receiving votes. Eriksen said it allows the Bulls to rest their players without losing talent in their lineups.
The competition they’ll face in the early portion of the year was also intentional, according to Eriksen. Facing powerhouse clubs could give them a glimpse at what they could face in the postseason.
“I think it’s important to see that as early as possible,” Eriksen said. “So you can set your benchmarks and understand what you have to work on early enough in the season to give you the three months prior to the postseason.”
These factors could aid USF in reaching its ultimate goal — its first appearance in the college world series since 2012.
“I really hope we can make it to the postseason. And if we grab a few rings along the way, that’d be awesome,” Trivelpiece said. “So I think a lot of people have the same mentality…however that has to work. We’re here to do it.”