It had been an inspiring season for the American Studies softball team.
The Senators had already posted a near-perfect 11-1 regular-season mark. They toppled mighty Kennedy to claim their first Bronx A-1 Division title — ending the Lady Knights’ four-year reign. And they advanced to the Public School Athletic League quarterfinals for the first time in school history after playoff wins over Forest Hills and Metropolitan Campus.
Those victories set up a playoff date with top-seeded and defending champion John Bowne last week, and after the Senators’ 7-1 loss ended their season, there were only tears and hugs, and then some more tears.
But then head coach Ryan Hondorf gathered his team in right field after the traditional postgame handshake, and within moments had transformed those tears to cheers — and even some laughs. All it took was a little reminder of what the Senators had accomplished this season.
“The initial reaction was sadness because we lost, and we came into the game believing we could knock off No. 1,” Hondorf said. “But then we reminded them how far they had come from March to May, how the difference in the level of play was just amazing. I was telling them we were so happy with how dedicated and committed they were and that they were amazing teammates.”
Ava Grill Dubois went back and forth between tears and laughs as she chose to focus on the positives of the Senators’ season.
“We talked about the loss, but we also said while this was a tough loss this was the No. 1 seed in New York City and they won it last year,” Grill Dubois said. “We didn’t play as clean as we could have, but we played well and we won our division this year so that is something to be really proud of.”
The Senators actually got on the board in the top of the first inning when shortstop Maia Fernandez walked, went to second on a fielder’s choice and stole third before scoring on a wild pitch for a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately for the Senators, it was a short-lived lead as Bowne answered with four runs in the bottom of the first with the help of several American Studies’ miscues.
From there Bowne pitcher Meaghan Noonan retired the Senators in order in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, while the Lady Wildcats added to their lead with single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. All of that gave them a 7-1 cushion.
“I think it was a little bit of jitters in the first inning,” Hondorf said. “I give them credit because they make the defense really think out there, make sure the bases are covered, and you’re making the right plays all the time. We had a couple of plays that we didn’t make, and that was pretty much the difference.”
Despite the loss, Grill Dubois said her glass remained half-full.
“For me personally it feels amazing to get this far,” said Grill Dubois, one of three seniors on the team. “In all my four years here I’ve never gone three rounds into the playoffs. Not in basketball or softball, so it feels great to do it with this team. I’ve never won a division in my four years here in any of my sports, so that just feels amazing.”
The good news for the Senators is they have most of their starters returning next season, and think they will be equipped for another deep run in the playoffs.
“We have a lot coming back,” Hondorf said, naming Fernandez, Neveah Franky, Emily Eljamal and Sydney Borak as just a few. “We know what it takes and we’ll continue to improve.”
Eljamal, the junior catcher, thinks the Senators opened some eyes.
“It was an amazing year for us,” she said. “I don’t think anyone was expecting how hard we were going to come out this year. No one in our division was expecting us to come out on top, but we took them all by surprise. Overall I think this was a killer season, and we did amazing.”
While this season was one to remember, Hondorf said it may just be the beginning for these Senators.
“We couldn’t be more proud of them,” the coach said. “None of us ever experienced getting this far so everyone is proud of what we did here and it will be something they can take with them forever. But this could be just the start. I feel like the culture is developing towards where we’ll be a city power, so we’re just looking to keep this going.”