Spotlight on the Senior Class
March 16, 2011
When current seniors Mike Francisco, Dain Hall and David Koczirka arrived on campus back in 2008, they joined a team that was stocked with veterans and achieved immediate success with a trip to the BIG EAST Championship and a spot in the semifinals of the conference tournament. That 2008 squad featured 15 seniors who were largely counted on by the team day in and day out.
Now it is the turn of this trio of Wildcats to lead the team on a daily basis throughout the 2011 season, but there are only three of them while the rest of the team is made up of 13 juniors, six sophomores and 10 freshmen. Prior to the start of the season, each of the three seniors talked about the upcoming season and their roles as leaders on the team.
1. What do you think this team is capable of, in comparison to the success you had last year?
Dain Hall: The first step for the team every year is to start with finding our identity. Last year we had a better idea of that with guys like Brian Streilein and the rest of the seniors who had been there before. While we may have had a stronger foundation returning last year, this season there is at least as much talent as we had before.
David Koczirka: The big thing for us this year is going to be to find our confidence early in the season. Everything else that we want to accomplish and get done will come as a result of playing with confidence early in the year. We can't allow ourselves to fall into the hands of the other team and not play as well. Starting off well and sticking to our game will be important.
2. What do you think is the team's biggest strength? Pitching? Defense? Intangibles?
Dain Hall: That is probably the biggest thing about ourselves that we have to find out at the start of the season. Having not been on the field since last fall, we don't really know what our biggest strengths are going to be. Based on the makeup of the team, it should be a combination of all those things. We have a lot of young talent coming in that has a ton of potential, but they will have to figure it out pretty quickly for us to be successful. As seniors we are expected to lead the way but the juniors will have to contribute also. As a team we have to find what it is we do well and then do it consistently.
David Koczirka: We know that like always the pitching staff will be a strength and will have to carry us a lot of the time. As an offense, we need to find a way to produce runs and win close games with our offensive production.
3. What does having only a few seniors mean for this team? How effective is the player leadership?
Dain Hall: We have kind of been talking about that the entire spring, that we need the junior class to step up this season. There are so few seniors that we don't see ourselves as being a senior class and a junior class. Three seniors is pretty insignificant so we see ourselves as one big group of upperclassmen. The juniors have had so much playing time that all of us will have to step up and lead the way.
4. What was it like for you guys to come in as freshmen to a team that had 15 seniors and already had a great deal of experience? Now that you are seniors and there are only three of you, do you still feel like this is a young team?
David Koczirka: It was tough to come in as freshmen with so many veteran players that were already here. We are trying to do what we can this year to make the younger guys feel like they are a part of the team right away. We can't look at ourselves as a young team because the guys who are back know that we have the experience we need to be successful.
Dain Hall: The nice thing about younger teams is that there is a lot of potential for upside but you have to be able to overcome a lot of things early on in order for that upside to show itself by the end of the season. It can be frustrating at times to be part of a young team but that is what we are working on, to play up to our potential right from the start.
Senior closer Mike Francisco
1. How have preseason practices been going for the team, especially the recent workouts leading up to the start of the season?
Mike Francisco: Everything has been going well for us. It has been a little tough because the team is working through some injuries but going into our season opener I feel that we are ready to get off of the turf and onto the field. Everyone is ready to go.
2. After making big strides last season how does the team continue to move forward this year?
Mike Francisco: We need to keep going with how we started last year and then carry that through the whole season. The team has to learn how to finish games and finish series, which is something we struggled with late in the season. There is no reason for us not to challenge for a spot in the BIG EAST playoffs this year.
3. How is this particular team going to be defined? What are the team's biggest intangibles?
Mike Francisco: This team is definitely going to be known for its character. We all have a hunger and a willingness to win and that is how we need to build our team chemistry. For the juniors and seniors this is our third year playing together. There are only three seniors but we just see it as one big group of upperclassmen and it is time for us to step up.
4. The upperclassmen returning to the team this year all have a great deal of experience but there are many new faces as well. How would you describe the team, one that is still young or one that has a veteran group to count on?
Mike Francisco: It does feel like there are a lot of freshmen and newcomers on the team this year. Finding experienced players can be a little tougher with so many younger underclassmen but there is a big junior class that can step up in their third year and give the team a lot of experience.
5. When you arrived on campus as a freshman you joined a team that had 15 seniors and you made the BIG EAST playoffs your first season. How has the team changed over the last four years from your perspective?
Mike Francisco: As freshmen it was like we came on to a minor league team with a bunch of grown men. It was a different feeling but it was good because the seniors could relate to every experience we had since they had all been through it. There are so few of us seniors on the team this year that I don't know if the younger guys realize that we have been through all of these different situations, including going to the playoffs. We have been through a lot and even though it might be harder for the younger guys to find an upperclassmen to talk to we still have a lot that we can relate to with them.
6. How will the senior class lead the team this year? What does the team need to do in order to be successful?
Mike Francisco: I felt like last year and this year this has really become our team. There just gets to be a time where you can't keep saying that you will get better. There is a point where you have to know that this is it and you have to turn it on. That is what I know will happen for the team this year. We thought we had it last year because we started off so well but then we couldn't finish the deal. It was a good learning experience because now we know what it feels like to start off well. Last year we didn't know how to deal with that much success so early. It was new to us and we didn't react as well as we should have. This year the team has the experience that it needs to go out and get the job done. If a couple of the younger guys step up we are basically right where we need to be.