UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Last year the Utica College Softball team hosted the Empire-8 Tournament for the first time ever. This year the Pioneers may not be the hosts, but they still qualified, as the four seed. That means UC will face this year's host and #1 seed Ithaca in their first game, Friday at noon.
This group of Pioneers knows IC's Kostrinsky Field well, having played there last year in the team's first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament and also split a pair of games with the Bombers at the same field earlier this season.
"We know what their field's like, we know the conditions, I think we're used to their field," senior and NY Mills graduate Allie Jennings said Wednesday. "We shouldn't have any surprises of going to a random field and playing since we've been there this year we're prepared."
"I think it can be an advantage, because you travel Ithaca and it's almost like you're leaving everything at home, you're leaving your school work here, your friends," added junior Christy Traglia, a graduate of old Mohawk High School. "It gives you time to focus and collect yourself and mentally prepare for the game. Sometimes it's an advantage to be on the road I think."
UC finished the regular season 21-10, but just 6-6 in the conference. In fact, they qualified for the tournament just two days ago, winning the second game of a doubleheader Monday against Alfred, who's the three seed. The Saxons will meet Stevens in the first game of the tournament Friday at 10 a.m.
It's a double elimination tournament, with the losers of the first two games meeting at 2 p.m. and the winners going head to head at 4 p.m. The Tournament continues Saturday, with games at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and one game Sunday if necessary.
The Pioneers are hoping that a successful run this weekend leads to a repeat trip to the NCAAs.
"It was a great pleasure to coach this team this year," head coach Pat Mineo said Wednesday. "They really all stick together and on the field it's all UC. Our biggest thing we always say is no one is bigger than the program."