Big South softball coaches pick Longwood among league favorites in 2021
The poll marks the eighth consecutive year Longwood has earned a top-three preseason spot while also receiving multiple first-place votes.
Longwood tied Big South preseason favorite Gardner-Webb for the most first-place votes and accumulated 42 total points in the poll to trail only the first-place Runnin’ Bulldogs’ 50 points and second-place USC Upstate’s 47. USC Upstate received one first-place vote, while Charleston Southern received the other first-place citation.
This year’s Lancer squad is rife with veteran experience, as Longwood returns its entire starting lineup from one year ago. Among that group is a six-woman senior class that includes fifth-year seniors Kasey Carr and Destiny Martinez, who return for 2021 after having their 2020 senior season cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also headlining the 2021 Lancers is the ace of the pitching staff Sydney Backstrom, who in 2020 was voted Big South Preseason Pitcher of the Year. The 6-1 right-hander is an All-Big South first-team honoree and boasts a career record of 40-22 and a 2.62 ERA. With nearly 400 career innings under her belt, she ranks as the Big South’s active leader in wins and innings pitched.
Backstrom will anchor a Longwood diamond that remains entirely intact from last season. Included in that group are the utility duo of juniors Sydney Jacobsen and Alexis Wayland, who led Longwood in hits, RBI and total bases a year ago, as well as first baseman Madison Blair, second baseman Martinez, shortstop Carr, third baseman Mason Basdikis, outfielders Nia Green, Lauren Taylor and Leah Powell, and designated player Kelly Park.
Last season that Lancer squad’s quest for an unprecedented sixth Big South title in eight years was cut short in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Longwood was the Big South preseason No. 1 in 2020 and has since added a three-woman freshman class that includes Virginia’s single-season doubles record-holder Kayley DeVivi, 2019 Virginia 5A State Champion Lauren Fox and 2019 VISSA State Payer of the Year Maison Myers.
After winning Big South titles in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, this year’s Lancers enter 2021 under the tutelage of first-year head coach Dr. Megan Brown and assistant coach Matt Burns. Brown took over for legendary Longwood head coach Kathy Riley in August of 2020 and assumed the reins of a Lancer program that in eight seasons as a member of the Big South has reached five NCAA Regionals, won five Big South tournament titles and three Big South regular-season titles, and hauled in a combined eight Big South Player, Pitcher and Coach of the Year awards.
Now Brown, whose coaching resume includes time in the ACC, SEC and Pac-12, is on the cusp of opening her first season as a head coach, which will begin in Longwood’s dugout in mid-February. The Lancers will announce their final 2021 schedule later this month in tandem with the Big South Conference’s league-wide announcement.