Chasing The Title

In search of its third straight berth in the NCAA Tournament under head coach Shawn Rychcik, the NC State softball team begins the 2015 campaign in Lafayette, Louisiana on Friday with a double-header.

The Wolfpack will face Louisiana in its season opener and then close out the twin bill against Central Arkansas.

The following day, NC State will travel to Baton Rouge to play in the LSU Tiger Classic, with two games against SEC host Louisiana State, after battling Memphis in the first contest.

Rychcik is entering his third season at the helm in Raleigh, after spending the past eight years at Boston University. The Wolfpack has a 71-38-1 record during his tenure after finishing 49-54 over the previous two campaigns.

NC State is also 29-15 in league play and a sterling 32-8 at Dail Softball Stadium the previous two seasons after compiling a 12-27 record in the ACC and 23-16 mark in Raleigh during the two years before Rychcik took over. The Pack, after being picked to finish in the lower half of the league, won the 2013 ACC Tournament with a, 1-0, victory over Florida State in Tallahassee.

While Rychcik’s squad is loaded with talent, it is seniors Emily Weiman and Renada Davis that form a formidable one-two punch for NC State in 2015. The duo lead more by example than vocally and, with a squad that has 11 of its 18 players as either freshmen or sophomores, that approach is fine with their head coach.

“I have never been a real ‘rah-rah’ kind of coach,” Rychcik said. “I think they have doing really well. I think they’ve been careful about how vocal they are and how bossy they can be. We have a really good mix with the freshman to the seniors and everybody in-between.”

While not boisterous off the field, the play of Weiman and Davis on the diamond speaks volumes.

Weiman, the 2013 ACC Pitcher of the Year and ACC Tournament MVP, is a two-time First Team All-ACC performer. She has earned All-ACC Academic honors in each of her three years at NC State.

With three years under her belt as a top-tier pitcher in the conference, Weiman is thrilled with the progress she has seen from the program and expects great things in her final season.

“We have definitely shown that we can get to the postseason,” Weiman said. “That is definitely something that has changed with this coaching staff.

“Now it is about taking it further and setting that new goal for ourselves. So we definitely want to go to a Super Regional this year and absolutely want to go to a [College] World Series. We kind of have that expectation for ourselves now, which is really exciting, but that is kind of our mentality—that we should be there, we are good enough to be there, we are good enough to be a top-25 team.”

Davis exploded on the scene as a freshman and posted a .362 batting average to finish second in the conference and earn the ACC Freshman of the Year Award. She owns the school record for home runs in a season (26 in 2013) and last season set a NC State record by batting .375.

For Davis, there is a stark difference between the expectations during her first season to the current state of Wolfpack softball.

“I came in as a freshman it was more like ‘have fun we are not going to be the best team so have fun at it and do what you can,’” Davis recalled. “The new coaches came in [prior to the 2013 season] and really showed how hard we need to work and how good we can be. It is a great transition.”

“Our coaches have great attitudes, winning attitudes,” Davis added. “They push us and get us where we need to be so we can win. It is crazy to look back at it. My freshman year we finished last in the conference.”

With losses in the NCAA Tournament Regional to SEC schools in the past two seasons, NC State will look to make a deeper run this year. Weiman feels the experience the Wolfpack has gained under Rychcik, along with the increased talent level of the conference and better quality of scheduling, gives the team the chance to take things further.

“It has grown since I have been here," Weiman said. “Our coaches have been telling us to get to a Super Regional; we will likely have to beat a SEC team. Coach has set up pretty well by putting us up against some good competition and getting us prepared.

“I do think we are getting better and getting stronger as a conference. You can see that with Florida State getting to a World Series—which is good for our conference—and Notre Dame is a top-25 team too.”

With their final seasons about to get underway, Rychcik is confident that Weiman and Davis will push the Wolfpack to greatness, this year and beyond.

“[Weiman] works like crazy and Renada is one of the hardest workers,” Rychcik said. “That is a great place to start right there. They put themselves in a spot where they’re prepared and now they can help other people be prepared.”

“Those two are the face of our program the last three years I have been here,” Rychcik added. “It is nice when they are your harder workers, so when they do speak up someone isn’t going to say ‘you don’t do this’ because they do.”

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