Longwood enters the 2017 season as the Big South preseason favorite for the third straight year, coming off back-to-back Big South regular season and tournament championships and the program’s third title in a four-year span.
Led by head coach Kathy Riley, now in her 20th season at Longwood and winner of more than 700 career games, the Lancers have quickly become the dynasty of Big South softball with Big South titles and ensuing NCAA Regional berths in 2013, 2015 and 2016. This year, the Big South Championship runs through Farmville, as the Lancers host the conference tournament for the first time on their home field, May 10-13.
Longwood’s quest for its third consecutive title will be led by a group of six returning starters from last year’s squad, which won 40 games and advanced to the program’s first-ever NCAA Regional championship game against national power James Madison.
Anchoring the Lancers will be the 1-2 punch of pitchers Elizabeth “Biz” McCarthy ’17, a kinesiology major from Dunnsville, and Sydney Gay ’19, of Carrollton, who return in 2017 as one of the most formidable pitching duos in mid-major softball. McCarthy, a two-time Big South Pitcher of the Year, has been the fulcrum of Longwood’s dominant three-year run since 2013, amassing a 61-31 record with a 2.61 ERA over nearly 600 innings on the mound. Gay, meanwhile, became an immediate complement to McCarthy last season, earning Big South Tournament MVP honors as part of a freshman season in which she went 20-8 with a 1.93 ERA.
At the plate, Longwood returns three Big South All-Conference representatives from last season’s squad: Karleigh Donovan ’19, a sociology major from Dinwiddie; Glenn Walters ’18, a kinesiology major from Glen Allen; and Krista Kelly ’18, a business major from Rockville, Maryland. In addition, Kelsey Sweeney ’18, a biology major from Newport News, and Justina Augustine ’17, a liberal studies major from Warrenton, earned all-conference accolades after the 2015 season, giving the Lancers five players in their batting order who have earned all-conference accolades at some point in their careers.
Riley will once again challenge her squad with a daunting 2017 schedule that features matchups against five Power Five teams and a nonconference contingent of teams that combined for a .579 winning percentage last season.