The Kingsway softball team entered this 2019-2020 season with high hopes. They were returning much of their team from the previous year. As the defending South Jersey Group 4 champions, they had big game experience and were hoping to ride that experience to a State Group 4 title.
The team was to be buoyed by stars such as recent St. Joseph’s University signee Sarah Cancila, power hitter Siyana Begey, Tori Lipka, Delaney Patella, Taylor Campagna, and Marina Costello.
Begey was one of the top sluggers in South Jersey, having hit five home runs last year. Cancila was entering this season with 87 hits and certainly would have hit the magical 100 career hit mark early in the season.
Jill Ward, who had served as the program’s freshman softball coach last year, was set to start her first year as head coach. She was replacing Dave Dominik, who had a very successful run as coach following Kingsway coaching legend Tony Barchuk.
Ward has extensive coaching experience as a coach of the South Jersey Lady Blue Jays softball team. She also runs SJ Sports Mill, where she provides individualized softball training to athletes throughout South Jersey.
As a player, Ward also experienced a high level of success. She was a two-time All-Conference selection as a pitcher at Lehigh University. During her time at Lehigh, she won 50 games in her career. She is a proven winner.
The pieces were in place for a stellar spring 2020 campaign. However, the COVID-19 pandemic called for the cancellation of the softball season, as well as all other sports’ seasons. It appeared that this team would never get the chance to show its stuff.
Due to the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the softball coach at Gloucester High School, Megan Mason, organized a tournament that allowed South Jersey schools to compete one last time as a high school team. As the NJSIAA spring season was concluded and playing restrictions have not been lifted fully, these teams played under nicknames.
The Kingsway team, playing as Dragons Softball, did not disappoint. They defeated Paul VI (12-7), with three RBIs each coming from Begey and winning pitcher Marina Costello.
While one or two games does not make up for the loss of an entire season, any played game during this pandemic certainly is much more worthy than it may have been thought prior to this season.
It certainly is a step towards our old sense of normalcy, and, for these athletes, that is all that they want right now.
By Christian Lynch