Having no seniors is a problem usually faced by new schools or new sports programs. But this year's Providence High softball team is in just that position.
After three seniors graduated from a team that went 16-5 last year, the Panthers were left with no seniors and a very young squad. The lone junior on last year's team decided not to return.
"It just happened that we ended up with none," said head coach Amanda Stefanski, who is in her fifth year coaching the team.
The three juniors, Sarah Casella, Meredith Brami and Erin Quant, along with sophomore Elena Covert, have stepped up to be the "senior leaders" of this team a year before they were expected to.
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"We just kind of stepped up to where we needed to be," said Brami, who plays first base.
The Panthers are 6-6 (through April 22) but, Stefanski said, leadership hasn't been the problem. This year "has not been a struggle at all," she said. "From the fall, these girls have stepped up to be leaders."
"You'd think they were seniors," added Stefanski.
They are also unselfish, said Stefanski, who proposed a junior game instead of a senior game this year; the juniors proposed having a freshman game.
But while leadership hasn't been a problem, the season has not been easy.
The team was hurt four years ago by the opening of Ardrey Kell High.
"Our numbers went way down when Ardrey Kell opened," said Stefanski in an e-mail. "Last year, at least three students graduated from (Ardrey Kell) who had started at Providence."
Then the Panthers lost standout pitcher Leah Quant to graduation last year. Quant, a co-conference pitcher of the year now playing at Limestone College, is also the older sister of Erin Quant; Erin is the third of three Quant sisters Stefanski has coached.
Brami said the season has been tougher without that dominant pitching.
The infield also completely changed from last year, with no player at the same position they were last season.
"Anybody in the infield can play any infield position," said Casella, who plays third base for the Panthers. She said that players are used to playing other positions on travel teams and in other leagues.
The Panthers had to adjust even more when Casella and Covert, who starts at shortstop, were knocked out for two weeks and one-and-a-half weeks, respectively, with foot and ankle injuries.
Now that they are healthy, Casella and Covert are excited about the chance to play against conference teams they lost to the first time around. Quant, a centerfielder, said she expects to finish the season strong with everyone healthy. But the players know they are not at the level they want.
"We have a lot of room to improve," said Covert.
Despite any struggles on the field, Stefanski said, this team has come together better than any other team she's coached at Providence, and the seniors agree.
"Our chemistry has been really good," said Brami.
"This team has meshed better than past teams," added Casella.
The advantage to having no seniors is that next year the Panthers won't lose any players to graduation and will bring a lot more experience to the field. And the juniors are excited about coming back next year to lead the team.
"It's definitely been really fun being seen as a leader this year," said Casella. "And It will definitely be good to step up as leaders next year."