Since she arrived at Mount Saint Vincent for her freshman season in 2014, Mackenzie Heizer has known her fair share of success.
As a freshman, the Vacaville, California native earned Skyline Conference Pitcher of the Year and was named the top pitcher in the East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC). She was also tabbed as a Skyline Conference First Team selection that season, while earning Second Team honors in both her sophomore and junior seasons.
But the one thing that has eluded Heizer and the rest of the Dolphins is a Skyline Conference Tournament championship, despite a pair of seasons in the last three that saw The Mount post 28 and 21 victories while compiling an impressive 33-13 record in the conference.
Last season, the Dolphins got as close as they ever have in securing the title when they reached the tournament semifinals before being bounced by Mount Saint Mary and Sage colleges in the double-elimination tournament.
So if there were two words to describe the Dolphins mindset going into this season, they would be “Unfinished Business.”
“Definitely. I think this is probably the best chance we’ve ever had to win the Skyline,” said Heizer, now a senior. “This is the team to do it. It is my last chance but I think the freshmen coming in and with my other teammates, it’s the team that could go all the way this year.”
Head coach Mark Roldan, now entering his fourth full season with The Mount, laments how close his Dolphins came last season to making school history and, like Heizer, is excited about the possibilities this season could bring to the Riverdale college.
“We were very close to making it to the finals last year,” said Roldan, who coaches the team with his wife, Valerie. “In the sixth inning we had a [4-1] lead and we gave the lead up so that was tough.”
Sage scored seven runs in the sixth inning to eliminate the Dolphins, 8-4.
“We never went that far before,” Roldan said. “But each year the team is getting a little better. We really feel this is our strongest team so far. We always feel we’re in the mix to win the championship and we really feel we got the team to do it this year. We’re looking forward to the season and we feel very confident.”
Heizer will have plenty of help in the Dolphins’ pursuit of a title and tops among those will be her sister, Rachel, who is a junior this season. Last season Rachel Heizer led the Dolphins with a .486 batting average while also leading the team in home run (8) and runs batted in (40).
“I thought she was going to win Player of the Year in the conference last year,” Roldan said. “She hit .500 in conference so she had a great season.”
Others Roldan said will be key to the Dolphins’ fortunes this season include seniors Rianna Laughridge and Kierstyn Bourdeau, along with rising sophomores Katie Moos and Deanna Nardi. But Roldan said he is also intrigued by a talented group of seven freshmen coming in, led by Alanna Reyes.
Reyes, an Alameda, California native, actually recruited herself to The Mount rather than the traditional route of coach chasing player.
“I actually emailed coach Roldan. I found him on a recruiting website and I saw that the level of competition here matched up with me and how much he wanted out of his players,” Reyes said.
“He understood that school came first and that was really important to me because academics are my top priority. I’m a nursing major. I knew coach was really trying to build the program and that was something I wanted to be a part of. I could see how passionate he was and I wanted to be part of the growth of the program. I was really honored that he wanted me to be part of that, too.”
The Dolphins were picked third in the Skyline Conference preseason poll, a number neither Roldan nor Heizer puts much stock in. This season the Dolphins are all in and they feel anything less than that first Skyline championship will be a major disappointment.
“We’ve worked so hard in the offseason, probably the hardest practice schedule we’ve ever had,” Heizer said. “But the girls know it will be worth it when we step on the field for that first game.”
The title pursuit begins this week with 10 straight games in sunny Myrtle Beach against some stiff competition. “We always ask to play the toughest teams in the tournament to get us ready for our [conference] season,” Roldan said.
That conference season begins March 25 when the Dolphins visit Purchase College.
“The team overall is just looking to win a championship. Everyone is putting the team first,” Roldan said. “Individual awards are great, we love seeing the girls get noticed for certain things but it really comes down to how the team finishes. Everyone would give up a personal award to win a championship.”