With five returning all-state players and nine returners in total, Montini looks to be a dangerous team in Class 3A this season.
Two-time all-state pitcher Lauren Trojnar is back for her junior year in the circle. Hitters Sara Ross, Cristina Barrett, Alyssa Sclafani and Isabell Alexander were also all-state selections last year.
Other returners include Morganne Evans, Zoe Dannenberg and Emily Lezcano. Evans will move from rightfield, where she played the last two seasons, to third base.
On paper, Montini is a young team. Coach Richie Costante expects the team to start just two seniors and three juniors with the rest being sophomores. However, all of those players have at least a year of varsity experience.
"This is the first year that we don't have a freshman starting since I've been here," Costante said. "That's a good thing. Every girl that's starting on the field has been on varsity since their freshman year. We still might be young in terms of sophomores and juniors, but they all have experience."
As for the seniors, Barrett is headed to play for Western Illinois. Ross is bound for IUPUI to continue her basketball career. Despite basketball being her priority and future focus, Ross still came out for one more year of softball, with some flexibility coming from the Montini coaching staff.
She took a couple days off after the Broncos won state in girls basketball and is taking some extra time during spring break as well.
"We know basketball is her No. 1 sport," Costante said. "We get that. That's what she's going to college for. An 80% Sara Ross is better than a 0% Sara Ross. Defensively she's one of the best first basemen I've ever coached."
Two-time defending Class 3A champion Glenbard South is likely to be in the way of Montini's hopeful trip to state, but this team has enough talent to compete with the powerful Raiders.
"We want to win conference, which we haven't done in the past three years," Costante said. "We have to get past the St. Francis jinx. We want to win a regional, last year we won a regional. We want to win a sectional."
Coach: Richie Costante2013 record: 27-11, regional champsTop players: Isabell Alexander soph. OF Cristina Barrett sr. SS Zoe Dannenberg soph. 2B Morganne Evans jr. 3B Sara Ross sr. 1B Alyssa Sclafani soph. C Lauren Trojnar jr. P