ST. CHARLES – Senior right fielder Olivia Lorenzini scanned over her St. Charles East softball teammates before practice recently and hardly could fathom her spot at the head of the stretching line.
Lorenzini jokingly fancied herself "the one bossing everyone around or whatever," but that's not truly the spirit of how she and senior shortstop Lexi Perez aim to led this team.
Entering their third full varsity seasons, Lorenzini and Perez have channeled their experiences as underclassmen to foster a more business casual atmosphere than past springs. They want to mix openness with dedication. In their minds, that can only lead to more victories.
"We all have the same attitude, which is we want to be here to win," Lorenzini said. "We're so ready to just dominate this season. Our lightheartedness is more the types of things before practice. We know what we have to do once we get going."
High-fiving whenever possible or reaching out to freshmen – this season's crop includes outfielder Katie Kolb and infielder Kelly Rinker –sounds simple enough and largely amounts to being a teammate.
Still, the Saints struggled with some of those basic gestures two seasons ago, when Lorenzini and Perez began finding their way as sophomores.
Neither player let personality clashes affect her play, ultimately using the lessons of a 16-16 campaign to invest for the future.
Travel teammates with the Wasco Diamonds before playing together in high school, Lorenzini and Perez began talking about their plan for their senior softball season when classes started in the fall. They wanted something as fluid as an easy walk down the hall. So far, so good.
"The older you get, the more relaxed you get playing. The more you know the team and the people, you get more comfortable playing at at higher level," Perez said. "So I just want to show the girls that they can have fun, too, while you're playing."
Off-field initiative certainly wasn't a problem for the Saints during the winter on the heels of a 20-13 season in 2012.
While East coach Kelly Horan keeps in touch with players throughout the school year, she can't fully see the development of the Saints' softball acumen until the first spring workouts.
"So when they come in and they're in shape, and they throw harder than they did last year, and they're faster and they swing better, I know that they spent a lot of time on their own working on their skills," Horan said. "And as a coach, that makes things so exciting. And just the character of these young women, it's just a pleasure to coach them."
Horan is eager to see Lorenzini and Perez develop as more vocal leaders after watching them grow as underclassmen. Perez contributed as a freshman in 2010, Horan's second season, playing second base before standout shortstop Jenny Niemiec graduated.
Perez finds "time really has flown by since then," in large part because she has enjoyed herself. She wants the Saints to keep that going and use the atmosphere to their advantage.
"Sometimes if you tense up, you can play worse," Perez said. "So if you try to loosen yourself up but still have that mentality of getting game-ready."