Saint Xavier softball is just two years removed from a 46-10-1 campaign in which the Cougars reached the championship round of the NAIA Softball World Series in Sioux City, Iowa. Since then, the program has undergone a plethora of changes.
Of course, as part of any collegiate athletic cycle, Saint Xavier was forced to adjust its roster after the graduation of several seniors. The services of Kasey Kanaga, Rebeka Ferguson and Jessica Arebalo needed to be supplanted in 2016-17, but the Cougars would feel the greatest loss in the form of NAIA All-American and Pitcher of the Year Nicole Nonnemacher.
As a hitter, Nonnemacher slashed .367/.452/.500 in 158 at-bats with two home runs, three triples, nine doubles, and 40 RBIs while drawing 27 walks and striking out a minuscule nine times.
To further Nonnemacher’s stand-out senior season, the right-handed pitcher appeared in 42 of the team’s 57 contests and sported a 1.00 ERA with 36 complete games.
In 266.1 innings, Nonnemacher struck out 455 and walked just 57 in one of the most dominant seasons in Saint Xavier history.
Seldom will a program have the ability to replicate the kind of production Nonnemacher provided, so Saint Xavier looked to overcome a tough hurdle in 2016-17. To make matters more difficult, the Cougars later discovered that its highly successful head coach would be stepping down.
Head coach Myra Minuskin left Saint Xavier after 16 years with the program and amassed an overall record of 623-245-4 (.718 winning percentage). Minuskin brought home 10 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) titles and was named CCAC Coach of the Year in 2001, 2002 and 2004.
Facing the loss of the Cougars’ longest tenured head coach, Saint Xavier looked internally to fill the vacancy left by Minuskin in an attempt to continue the team’s traditions and sustained success. The answer was Erin Mollohan-Corrao, who spent four seasons under Minuskin as an assistant prior to accepting the job as head coach of Saint Xavier softball in 2016-17.
Mollohan-Carrao’s first order of business as head coach of Saint Xavier was to put together her first ever recruiting class. Coach Muniskin established a clear standard for the Cougar softball program and Mollohan-Carrao says she wants to continue that trend.
“We are looking for student athletes that can help in terms of softball, but, more importantly, student athletes that fit in with our culture and that will exemplify what it means to be a Saint Xavier softball member both on and off of the field,” Mollohan-Carrao explained. “Culture is very important to us and we are looking for young women that will come in and contribute to our softball family in a productive way.”
In her first season as head coach, Mollohan-Carrao led her team to a 22-26 overall record while placing seventh in a competitive CCAC with an 11-13 record in conference. The Cougars experienced its first losing season since 1996, but, in a new role, coach Mollohan-Carrao understands success will arrive with patience and trusting the process.
“We never want to see any season be purely a transition year, but we definitely learned a lot and saw a ton of great things from all of our players,” Mollohan-Carrao said. “Last year’s talent, combined with our new group of athletes, makes for an exciting time for SXU softball.”
12 of 18 roster spots were filled by underclassmen during the 2016-17 season and many gained valuable experience through live game situations over the course of a rigorous 48 game college schedule. With a large portion of the roster returning in 2017-18, the Cougars have an opportunity to reestablish its historic winning culture and further coach Mollohan-Carrao’s vision of achievement.
“We are looking to make an impact right away this season,” Mollohan-Carrao said. “We have great pitching, some serious power, and we added speed to our lineup as well. We just want to go out and play our best ball and work together as a cohesive group.
“This is a fun and exciting group of young women who are extremely passionate about the game. We can’t wait to see what we can do when it all comes together this spring.”
To read the full article, keep an eye out for “The Bell” magazine, which will drop on December 1st.