By John D'Onofrio
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
With experience to spare, the Lockport Lady Lions are looking confidently to improve upon their runner-up finish a year ago in Niagara Frontier League softball.
Head coach Julie Kwoka’s senior-laden team returns more than half a dozen key components of last year’s 11-3 group that tied with Niagara-Wheatfield for second place in the NFL. That includes returning NFL First Team all-stars in senior center fielder Emily Belfield and senior catcher Nora Passuite.
Kwoka said these and six more seniors is a plus as the Lady Lions vie to top the Lady Falcons and defending champion Kenmore West in 2012.
“These girls are absolutely capable of challenging for the league title,” Kwoka said. “We played some good softball last year against some good teams, so we know we’re capable of playing well again and competing. We’re anxious and we’re confident. So many of these girls have played together in a variety of sports, so they work well together.”
Belfield, who will play Division I softball at St. Bonaventure next season, has been regarded as one of the NFL’s best players for at least the last two years, yielding a powerful bat and a big glove and arm.
“Without question, Emily’s one of the top players in the NFL. She tries hard, practices hard and plays hard,” Kwoka said.
“She’s a fierce competitor. If you beat her at something, she wants another turn.”
Passiute, who matches tremendous speed and quickness with toughness behind the plate, is a quality hitter as well.
“Nora has really developed into a hitting threat. She can slap and swing away from the left side. She’s so quick, she’s difficult to defend against.” Kwoka said.
Also returning are senior starters Patti Burdick (shortstop), Ashley Krywcun (third base), Kelsey Stamates (second base), Kassidy McFall (pitcher), and one of the league’s top first basemen, Kelly McKeever. Rookie senior Danielle Donorovich (right field) is no stranger to the sport, having played softball all her life locally and throughout the past summers.
Junior Allie Cavagnaro was a Third Team All-NFL selection a year ago and will start again in left field, though she can play multiple positions and is considered her team’s top utility player.
McFall, a right-hander, will start in the circle for the blue and gold. “She’s worked hard at her game. We just need to make sure we’re throwing the right pitch at the right time,” Kwoka said of her ace. Also pitching for the Lady Lions this year will be sophomore Megan Schneider, also a right-hander. Schneider pitched on the junior varsity Lady Cubs last season and has looked well so far in three spring scrimmages, Kwoka said.
Rounding out the LHS roster are juniors Shannon Krywcun (catcher, outfield), Kelly Anderson (catcher, first base) and Maddy Steen (infield) and freshman Jordyn Kwoka (outfield).
The Lady Lions open the Niagara Frontier League portion of their schedule at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday at Niagara Falls. Their NFL home opener is 4:45 p.m. April 19 against Kenmore East.
Other 4:45 p.m. home contests at LHS, along Locust Street, are April 25 (Lewiston-Porter), April 26 (Niagara-Wheatfield), May 4 (Niagara Falls), May 5 (Grand Island, 3:30 p.m.), May 9 (Kenmore West) and their NFL season finale on May 16 against visiting North Tonawanda.