Despite finishing with just 11 wins last season, the Maryland softball team is optimistic it's primed for a turnaround.
The Terps added three transfers and six freshmen, four of whom were high school All-Americans. Coach Julie Wright doesn't believe those players' inexperience will prevent them from contributing, starting Friday afternoon in the Terps' season opener against Cal Poly.
"The game really doesn't change," Wright said. "It moves a little faster, the athletes are a little stronger. … We talk to them a lot about relying on preparation and relying on older players."
From the three transfers, right-hander Sydney Golden could be the largest contributor. On Monday, the junior was named a captain for her first season in College Park after spending the past two seasons with Cal State Fullerton.
"Sydney Golden is a winner," Wright said.
Golden will lead Maryland's new-look pitching staff, as the pitchers who threw 315 of the team's 340 innings last year are no longer on the team.
Junior Sami Main and sophomore Lauren Graves are the lone returners from last season's pitching staff. Along with Golden, freshman Ryan Denhart rounds out the group.
The turnover also extends to the coaching staff. Wright brought in two new assistants: Tori Tyson as the pitching coach and Victoria Hayward to work with the hitters.
"Both of them bring a great energy and a great vibe," Wright said. "They pay attention to the details and they are extremely competitive."
Infielder Skylynne Ellazar, who starred at the plate last season as a junior, is one of the Terps' key returners. Ellazar, who ranks second all-time at Maryland with a .341 career batting average, believes this year's team can surprise spectators.
"I expect us to be fun," Ellazar said. "We are definitely the underdog coming in."
The Terps were underdogs when they pulled off three upsets over ranked teams last year, including their first win of the season over top-ranked Florida.
Wright credits her team's composure to its mentality, approaching each game the same way.
She believes the team can repeat its success against highly ranked opponents this season.
"We're a high-energy team," Wright said. "I'm a high-energy coach. Sometimes that sort of connectedness and that 'fight' mentality catches teams off-guard."