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Previewing what’s to come for Virginia softball this season

The Cavaliers look to bounce back from an unique season, which left them without a conference win

<p>After 11 months of not playing a game, the softball team is ready for action.</p>

After 11 months of not playing a game, the softball team is ready for action.

2020 Season Recap

The COVID-19 pandemic largely reshaped the entirety of the 2020 softball season, as Virginia saw its last 29 games canceled — ending the season very prematurely. The Cavaliers were only able to play six conference games, in which they were swept by both Clemson and Virginia Tech as they dropped three games against each of the teams, respectively. Virginia’s struggle in conference play can be further highlighted by the fact that it was outscored by 31 runs over those games, including not being able to find a way onto the scoreboard against rival Virginia Tech in 21 straight innings.

However, outside of conference play, the Cavaliers were able to find more success on the field as they were able to boast a win percentage well over the .500 mark. The last games of Virginia’s abbreviated 2020 season were out of conference play, which allowed them to snap a six game losing streak and head into the 2021 season with two consecutive wins.

2021 schedule breakdown

The Cavaliers opened the first of their 50 total games against Georgia Feb. 13 in the Red & Black Showcase in Athens, Ga. — this will be the first time Virginia has been able to play another team in roughly 11 months. The Cavaliers are slated to play on the road for a decent stretch, as they are scheduled to play Louisville and Pittsburgh three times each between Feb. 18 to Feb. 21. These games will be crucial to Virginia as they represent the start of conference play.

The Cavaliers then travel home and begin a nine-game homestand in the Cavalier Classic. The tournament sees the Cavaliers facing off against James Madison Feb. 27 and George Washington three times — once on Feb. 27 and in a double-header Feb. 28.

Conference play then resumes with Virginia facing off against Clemson four times in a three-day span and Virginia Tech once at home. The Cavaliers struggled against these teams last season and will look to right the ship this time around.

Virginia’s schedule then consists of alternating home and away games against conference teams, which sees it traveling to N.C. to play four games against Duke and four games against NC State. Throughout the rest of the season, the Cavaliers will play series against multiple other ACC foes including Boston College, North Carolina and Notre Dame. Virginia will play its last games against Georgia Tech Apr. 30 to May 2. 

Keys to success

New talent

The Cavaliers added five freshmen to their roster for the upcoming season. Three of these recruits were ranked within the top 100 in the 2020 recruiting cycle, and while these players may be new to the team, they can still make an immediate impact.

Hailing from Mansfield, Ohio, freshman catcher Leah Boggs is one of the newest additions to the team. Ranked No. 55 in her recruiting class, as well as top 10 in her position, Boggs is a very talented roster piece for Virginia this upcoming season. A multi-sport athlete, Boggs has the athletic ability to make game-changing plays. Also in her personal arsenal is an elite hitting ability which she showcased throughout highschool en route to being named conference player of the year. Her talents make her a weapon on both the offensive and defensive side of the field.

While not ranked in the top 100 recruits, freshman pitcher Mikayla Houge still played in three state championships and was named the Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year in 2019. Her pitching abilities led her to secure over 1,000 high school career strikeouts, showing off her elite talent and longevity. This skill has the potential to help shore up the Cavalier’s defense.

New mindset

The struggles of Virginia have been well documented, as they have failed to topple the .500 mark in the last 10 years. Though the past decade hasn’t treated the Cavaliers too well, they must go into this season looking to start a new chapter. Success this season will come only when the team focuses on winning, not perseverating on past seasons and lamenting over past failures. 

Predictions

Playing in a tough ACC conference while also trying to incorporate freshmen into the lineup with limited practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic will provide plenty of obstacles for the Cavaliers to overcome this upcoming season. Many of the conference teams Virginia will face this year fared very well in the shortened 2020 season, making the road to success even more difficult. I predict Virginia will finish with a 21-29 record, struggling in conference play but, nonetheless, getting close to finishing with a winning record.

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