After winning three straight district championships, the Nordonia High School softball team graduated six seniors last spring.
But the word "rebuilding" is not part of head coach Amie Cormell's vocabulary.
"We lost six seniors and our entire starting infield, but we're not looking at it as a rebuilding year," said Cormell. "We have girls this season who could have easily started last year, but there were seniors ahead of them. Those girls are ready to fill those spots right now."
The six seniors Nordonia lost to graduation included Jolene Teller, Hannah Perrine, Holly Groff, Julia Groff, Natalie Spadaro and Maddie Montesano. Teller hit .495 for the Lady Knights a year ago and is now playing for Mercyhurst University.
Nordonia has three seniors on the roster this season. Leading the way is captain Madi Filakosky, a three-year starter behind the plate.
Like Filakosksy, Rachel Vickers is a four-year letterwinner. Vickers is a true utility player and will see playing time at both the infield and outfield positions. Nordonia's third senior is two-year varsity letterwinner Skylar Dean (outfield/pitcher).
Junior Rachel Cornett returns as Nordonia's top pitcher, while junior Lexi Maciejowski will replace Holly Groff at shortstop.
Other varsity returners for the Lady Knights include junior Hannah Ours (third base/catcher/first base), junior Kendall Becker (centerfield), junior Kayla Buck (second base/outfield/pitcher) and sophomore Nina Christley (utility player).
"Our big point of emphasis is a lot of run support for our pitching staff," said Cormell. "We have some speed on the bases, so we need to put runs on the board."
There are also a number of newcomers to the varsity squad, starting with junior Grace Barth. She'll see some playing time at first base and also on the pitching mound. Others who are new to the varsity team include sophomore Jenn Willis (outfield), sophomore Jordyn Dean (utility/catcher), junior Sandra Spellman (outfield) and freshman Kat Pastor (shortstop).
"I'm excited to see how these girls come together," said Cormell. "There are some unknowns coming into the season as far as who is going to fit where. We're on the right track of figuring that out, though, and we have a ton of depth in our lineup. We might not have the same lineup for every game. We'll be mixing things up throughout the season."
Last year, Nordonia finished with an overall record of 18-9. The Lady Knights were also 11-3 in the National Division of the Suburban League, finishing second in the final division standings.
Nordonia won the division championship two years ago. Cormell believes that the Lady Knights can vie for the crown again.
"I think we're definitely a candidate to compete for the league title," she said. "Wadsworth will be tough again this year, and so will Brecksville. They're usually two of the better teams. We should be right up there. We might surprise some people."
Cormell's varsity assistant coach and pitching coach is Gina Lindesmith. John Puscian is the head junior varsity coach, while Kendall Fischer is the assistant JV coach and also assistant pitching coach.
"My coaching staff has not changed during the past three years," said Cormell. "Consistency is important for a successful program."
Nordonia is scheduled to open the new campaign March 25 against Massillon Jackson in a doubleheader at home. First pitch for game one is scheduled for noon.
The Lady Knights will be playing at the new Memorial Field across the street from Nordonia High School. It's only the second time that they've played there. They played a game at the new field at the end of last season.
Nordonia will also host Mayfield at noon April 1, for a "Strikeout Cancer" benefit. There will be T-shirts on sale during the twinbill, as well as a 50/50 raffle.