Eileen McCann is a junior outfielder on the Iona College softball team. This season, McCann will be taking Iona fans inside the world of not only an Iona softball player, but that of a student-athlete. After two short seasons, McCann has had a very successful career at Iona. A two-time MAAC Champion, McCann is a Mass Communications major with a concentration in Public Relations.
Before I begin I’d like to apologize as this entry is long overdue, as one can imagine the past couple weeks have been absolute mayhem with playoffs and final exams occupying most of my ability to function both physically and mentally. But on this beautiful Saturday morning in Berkeley, California, I have found myself with a few hours of free time to reflect on the wild ride that has been our 2012 season.
As anyone who has followed my blog for this long knows, we have had quite a few ups and downs this year. Looking back on all that we went through, I wouldn’t have had it any other way, because everything we did lead us to where we are now in the Berkeley Regional, apart of the 2012 NCAA Women’s Softball Championship, fresh off a game against the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. Many can play this game their entire life and not be able to say that much.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I must say I am SO PROUD of each of my thirteen teammates for the way they played against Cal. For anyone that did not witness the game live I can assure you that the score of the game does not adequately reflect the effort we put forth in the game. While we were still in New Rochelle, we sat down as a team as established exactly what we wanted from the Cal game. Aside from the obvious, winning, some girls voiced that no matter what, we must to stay true to ourselves by taking advantage of the fact that no one knows who we are, and grasping the opportunity to show them exactly what we’re all about. Our intensity was high in the dugout, we showed promise and fight in our at-bats and, for the most part, we kept our wits about us on defense. When facing a team hot off a Pac-12 Championship, that’s about all you can ask for.
As you may remember, at the start of the season when my first entry was posted, I informed you of our team’s goal for the 2012 season; to win a third straight MAAC Championship. I believe one of the underlying reasons as to why this entry is coming so late is because it has yet to hit me that WE DID IT! For the third year in a row we entered the MAAC Tournament and refused to leave without the title. Sitting here now, knowing that our next game could very well be out last, I’m overcome with sadness thinking about our senior class, possibly the most impactful class of girls to join this team in our program's history, that we will be forced to say goodbye to.
Deanne Algeo is possibly the most versatile player on our team. For three years I’ve watched Deanne jump from shortstop to pitcher to second base to left field, earning a starting spot in all positions, not to mention consistently serving as one of the most effective hitters in our lineup. Deanne’s role on our team over the past three years has changed vastly, and while most would complain or refuse to adapt, Deanne has soundlessly and selflessly performed in whichever way was best for the team at the time. Her willingness to change her position and do what’s best for the team is not a something that can be found in just any player, and our team will miss Deanne dearly for that, among many other things.
Versatility is a trait found in Chelsea Sheehan as well. Chel has jumped around the infield quite a bit in my three years as her teammate and, much like Deanne, she has proven time and time again that if we wish to win she must be one of the nine girls in the lineup, every game. Chelsea is, undoubtedly, one of the hardest working, most inspirational girls I’ve had the pleasure to play with. A constant leader both on and off the field, Chelsea puts herself entirely into every play, every at-bat, every game. My teammate Beth Kann and I often state that we want a framed, autographed action shot of Chelsea mounted on the wall of our room to inspire us to do our best each and every day. As Chelsea only lives a short car ride away in Connecticut, I can only hope that she attends a few of our games next year, as I’m certain her positive presence will help to inspire us.
While Chelsea and Deanne often couldn’t be found in the same position two games in a row, the same cannot be said for our first basemen, Allyssa James. I can’t imagine anyone else standing strong on the right corner of the diamond for the Gaels. At a time of defensive crisis, we could always find solace in Allyssa who so often would save an inning or shift the momentum of a game with a clutch dig-out or some other incredible defensive effort. Allyssa is a very subtle, unassuming player. She lets her game speak for itself, and I’ve rarely seen her get nervous, or tighten up in a stressful situation. It is this ability that allowed her to go 2 for 2 in the Cal game, and end her career on an inspiring, high note.
From Allyssa James, we go to Alyssa Maiese, a kind of person that you truly only come across once in life, if you’re lucky. When Alyssa transferred from Indiana, she spent her first year serving as a pitcher and simply nothing else. Looking back now on the sickening offensive numbers she has put up in her final two seasons with the Gaels, this fact is quite laughable. Once she was finally allowed to pick up a bat, Alyssa earned a spot as our clean-up hitter and has never looked back. She became the player that set the tone for each game both in the box and in the circle. Whether we did it by choice or it simply happened by circumstance, I’ll never know, but we often rallied behind Alyssa more so than anyone else. Much like Deanne, by the end of her career Alyssa far exceeded anyone’s expectations of her when she first became a Gael. Alyssa simply lives with a fire inside of her that pushes her and everyone else around her, everyday. Being without Alyssa next year will be a tough adjustment for us all.
One cannot think of Alyssa Maiese without thinking of Sarah Jackson, and vice versa. The two have been nearly inseparable for the past three years. Anyone that knows anything about Iona Softball in the past four years knows how pivotal Sarah has been to our success. In all my years of playing softball, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a player that makes the game look as effortless as Sarah does. Sarah provided us with a constant and consistent balance in the center of our game, at all times. While our offense may be lagging, or we may be struggling off the field or what have you, when Sarah was on the mound, it was easy. It was consistently near perfection. To call Sarah our “work horse” would be quite an understatement. The fact that she consistently pitched so phenomenally meant that she was given the start in every game of significance that she played for four years straight. I have never once heard Sarah complain about that fact that she is the one we look to lead us to success, and to set the tone for us defensively. The reality is that our program will likely never come across a pitcher of Sarah’s caliber again, and I’m honored to say that I was a part of the team that found success in a MAAC Championship, three years in a row, behind her remarkable pitching.
I now must get ready, as we are leaving the hotel for our game against Boston University soon. I don’t know if this next game will be the last of our season or not. I only know that if our season should end today, I can look back on it with great pride, knowing that we achieved our original goal, as a team. I will look back on the past three seasons spent as a teammate to those now graduating with great admiration, knowing full well that a group such as the one we currently have does not come around often, and words cannot describe how proud I am to say that I am a part of it.
Seniors, do me a favor and don’t ever forget your 2012 Gaels and all that we did this year. No matter where you go or how successful you become, your Iona family will always be here for you, no matter what.
ICSB 4 LIFE!
Our seniors spending their graduation day on the field, the final day of the MAAC Tournament.