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It did not take very long this past season for the mettle of the Wildwood Catholic High School softball program to be tested. It was a test with which the Crusaders may have struggled, but ultimately passed with flying colors.
“Honestly the first game of the season versus Vineland [was a memorable and challenging moment],’’ Wildwood Catholic head coach Matt Megines said. “Vineland killed us and we lost a few more players to injuries. After the game all the girls were crying and thought we wouldn’t have enough girls to finish the season after just one game. The girls had three choices at that season defining moment. Give in, give up or give all they had.’’
Leadership from student athletes such as Bella Feraco, Anna Mae Peterson and Mercedes Rivera helped guide the Crusaders through the early season setbacks.
“Although out for the season with a torn ACL, Mae never gave up hope or felt sorry for herself,’’ Megines said. “She came to practice and worked with the younger players, in school she was recruiting players for us. During games she was there to cheer her teammates on.’’
Feraco was able to make defensive position adjustments for the betterment of her team this spring.
“I believe it clicked for Bella this season and she started to realize just how good she was,’’ Megines said. “She was a vocal leader, came to practice every day and led by example-all the while doing it with a positive attitude and big smile.’’
Rivera was like having an extra coach on the field according to coach Megines.
“While playing center field she helped first year players in left and right field,’’ Megines said. “She helped get them in position and know situations. We actually finished a few games with only eight players so Mercedes would play two thirds of the outfield by herself. Offensively she moved from lead off to third in the lineup. We moved Mercedes due to the fact coaches would continually intentionally walk (Emily) Cimino and (Brianna) Bailey.’’
Coach Megines mentioned Alyssa Katz, Isabella Tengalia, Lauren McCallion, Rickii Davis and Marianna Popazoglou as being among the players who showed steady improvement throughout the season.
“Caroline Deegler had the difficult task of trying to replace Peterson defensively and took on a bigger role offensively,’’ Megines said. “Caroline definitely grew as a player this season.’’
Wildwood Catholic finished with an overall record of 11-7 and they were 8-4 in the Cape Atlantic League United Division. They advanced to the NJSIAA South Non Public B Sectional Tournament where they defeated Timothy Christian (11-0) in the opening round. In the quarterfinal round, they were defeated, 2-1, by Holy Cross.
“There are many reasons to be optimistic about next season,’’ Megines said. “We have a lot of talented players returning, along with a huge class of freshman coming in. Those two things combined with the awesome attitudes of our players and great team chemistry gives us all the reason to be optimistic about next year.’’