Lehigh softball senior outfielders Emily Cimino and Josie Charles and graduate student infielder Carley Barjaktarovich look to end their careers as back-to-back Patriot League Champions.
The tournament, which will take place at either Boston University or Lehigh on May 11-13, will be played in a double-elimination format and decide which team automatically advances to the first stage of the NCAA tournament.
Cimino has batted .355 on the season for the Mountain Hawks. She said she thinks the team’s dynamic and performance this year has put them in a good place to succeed in the upcoming tournament.
In addition to being physically prepared, Cimino said the team’s mental preparation is important.
“Softball is a very mental sport based on a lot of failures,” Cimino said. “Finding ways to not let your mind go down that negative spiral and finding the little positive things that allow you to show up and get better every day has been super helpful on the mental side of things.”
Charles agreed. She said the seniors must stay mentally tough heading into the tournament.
As the seniors run out of games to play, Charles said they are trying to live in the moment, take the tournament one game at a time and not make games bigger than they are.
“It is important to keep our heads grounded so that we don’t go into a spiral of anxiety,” Charles said.
Barjaktarovich said her mentality has remained consistent during her tenure at Lehigh and hasn’t changed as she enters her last post-season tournament.
Playing to have fun allows Barjaktarovich to stay loose. She said her plan is to enjoy her last few games as much as she can, but in the end, she wants to win.
“It would be really, really nice to go out on a high note,” Barjaktarovich said. “I particularly want this one maybe just a little bit more than in any other year.”
Cimino said the trio’s experience winning the Patriot League Tournament last year will be crucial in their success this year.
Lehigh graduated five seniors last season, who each contributed significantly during their championship run. Due to leaving contributors, Cimino said it is important for the upperclassmen to instill confidence in the first-years to ensure they know they are capable of becoming back-to-back champions.
Barjaktarovich said the team will be entering the tournament with a target on their back after putting up a competitive regular season, posting a Patriot League record of 15-0.
“It’s a little bit different not to be the underdog,” Barjaktarovich said.
While reflecting on her time at Lehigh, Cimino said team dynamics have made her time as a Mountain Hawk special.
“Each team has been very different, but each team has been truly a family experience,” Cimino said. “It’s not just a bunch of teammates out there, it’s a bunch of friends out there wanting to be there for each other, and I think that has made this experience really enjoyable.”
This is the final run for Barjaktarovich, who will be heading to the University of West Florida to pursue a master’s degree in human performance and a graduate assistantship with their strength and conditioning staff.
Cimino and Charles, on the other hand, could be back on the roster next year as fifth-year players.
Charles will be pursuing a master’s degree in management science engineering at Lehigh and plans on taking advantage of her final year of eligibility.
While she isn’t sure yet, Cimino said she has also been considering taking a fifth year at Lehigh. She plans on attending graduate school to be a physician’s assistant.
In the meantime, the senior trio set their sights on their last regular season series against Boston University at home on May 6-7 before heading into postseason play.