By: Brooke Retkowski

DOVER, Del. - The Wesley College softball team is set to play in the inaugural season of the Atlantic East Conference.

The team was picked to finish in a tie for fifth, receiving 10 points in the poll, tying them with the Marywood Pacers. Defending Colonial States Athletic Conference Champion Immaculata was picked first in the poll receiving 24 points. Neumann was selected to finish second in the conference receiving 20 points while Gwynedd Mercy came in third with 14 points. Neumann and Gwynedd Mercy split the final two first-place votes. Cabrini earned 12 points in the poll to come in at fourth in the poll.

Looking to secure the first-ever Atlantic East Conference title after finishing the 2018 season 13-17-2, eighth-year head coach Juli Greep thinks Wesley has the team to make an impact in the new conference.

"We are excited about the competition," said Greep. "There are several teams that are in the new conference that we have played in the past and had a lot of success against, so I think that is something the team is looking forward to."

After graduating one senior last year, Wesley will be returning nearly all their starters from 2018 for this season. The Wolverines have a deep offensive lineup, solid defense and speed on the base paths. Newcomers this year also allows for depth on the mound and behind the plate for the team.

The offense will be led by senior third baseman Ashley Royer. A two-time All-Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) and All-Region player, Royer led the team and ranked third in the CAC in batting average (.446). She also finished ninth in the conference in slugging percentage (.624) and tallied a team-high 45 hits including 10 doubles and a triple.

Along with Royer, the entire starting infield returns for Wesley including juniors Brooke Retkowski, Karina Cardona, and sophomore Bianca Newsom. Cardona hit .315 last season with 29 hits, 17 runs batted in and four doubles. Retkowski and Newsom each drove in nine runs in 2018 and is a solid defensive duo in the middle of the infield.

Senior outfielder Megan DiRubbio, an All-CAC player in 2017, is another valuable asset to the team. DiRubbio led the team and ranked fifth in the conference in stolen bases with 14 and notched a .314 batting average with 32 hits and two doubles. Junior Allison Mills along with sophomores Kelly Palmer, Amanda Curry, and Miranda Kinney all return to the outfield looking to build on their playing time from a season ago.

"Ashley and Megan provide excellent leadership, stability and effort and that sets the standard for the rest of the girls. We want to make sure they have the most successful senior years that they possibly can have."

Sophomores Dori Loukopoulos and Abbey Mayse return to the mound in 2019. Loukopoulos looks to dominate this season after picking up a team-high eight wins with 60 strikeouts and a 4.28 earned-run average. Mayse collected four wins and a save last season with a team-low 3.83 ERA. Both Loukopoulos and Mayse combined for nine complete games in their freshman seasons.

With the move to the Atlantic East, Wesley had to get more creative in scheduling non-conference games. The team is also looking forward to the competitive out-of-conference games this season.

"During spring break, we will be playing Coe College, who is a team that is ranked top-15, so that will really be a test for us as to where we are at. We are also playing Salisbury, Mary Washington, and Penn State Harrisburg from the CAC. We wanted to keep those competitive games on our schedule in order to allow us to play at a higher level once the conference games start. "

Wesley opens the season on Saturday, Feb. 23 when they take on the Swarthmore Garnet at DuPont Field in a doubleheader starting at 10 a.m. The Wolverines will also be hosting Franklin & Marshall College on Sunday, Feb. 24 in a twin bill starting at noon.