ConVal still among the D-II favorites

If the ConVal softball team is able to achieve the kind of success that I believe they are capable of, Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Hollis/Brookline will merely be a bump in the road.

“We were right there until the last pitch and I couldn’t ask for more from my kids,” said ConVal coach Jim Coppo. “I’d rather lose now than in June.”

While it would have been a nice story to see just how long the Cougars could remain the only unbeaten team in Division II, the schedule was not conducive to a perfect regular season.

Coppo will admit now that he wasn’t even sure the team would be unbeaten after the season opener at Milford. But the Cougars, who were one strike away from playing in last year’s D-II title game as the 10th seed, have to be among a small group of midseason favorites to be in that position in 2013.

Not only did ConVal dominate its season opener, but it continued that trend through most of April. Even though the final score of a few games ended up being close, the Cougars never trailed for a single out in the first five games. They rallied in the seventh to score three times in the top of the seventh to beat John Stark 4-3 last Friday and then defeated Division III Monadnock, 8-3, on Monday.

But everyone knew that the Cavaliers would be a test. They were undefeated in the regular season last year, earned the top seed in the D-II tournament and only graduated three seniors.

And it came down to one run. The Cavaliers got solo home runs in the first and sixth innings from senior Sarah Drazin, accounting for two of the three hits allowed by ConVal’s ace pitcher Courtney Fisher — who finished with 13 strikeouts. The Cougars scored once in the first on an two-out RBI triple by senior Lauren Mackey to score JoEllen Racicot, but despite a few chances, they couldn’t push another one across.

“We talked about the effect that loss would have and how we’re going to deal with it,” said Coppo.

So halfway through the schedule, heading into Monday’s anticipated match-up with a one-loss Conant team, ConVal stands at 7-1 and as of Wednesday afternoon still occupied the top spot in the Division II standings.

And while the schedule won’t be easy over the final eight games, this team is built for success. There is no doubt in my mind that ConVal will be among the top seeds in this year’s tournament.

“Being battle tested is huge for us,” said Coppo. “It’s only going to help us down the road.”

They won’t have to win two road games to reach the Final Four. The road to Southern New Hampshire University will go through ConVal.

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