Learning curve for West Hempstead


It would be generous to call 2024 a rebuilding year for the West Hempstead softball team.
Still without a JV squad for players to develop through, Rams coach Chris Van Kovics is trying to make the most of it while accelerating players up to the varsity level. Of the 13 players on West Hempstead’s roster, 10 are underclassmen. For some, this is their introduction to softball.
“We have a very young, inexperienced team,” Van Kovics said. “We’re out there practicing, and we’re definitely getting better. It’s just that we’re in a tough part of the schedule right now where we’re facing [more experienced teams]. They have better players, and it’s going to be a challenge.”
The area needing the biggest improvement for West Hempstead thus far has been the defense. In five winless games, the Rams have surrendered a combined 80 runs, spoiling some rather serviceable starts from sophomore arm Valerie Schreck.
“If she wasn’t in the circle, I don’t know who would pitch,” said Van Kovics. “She’s definitely better than she was last year, but she doesn’t have the defense behind her. That’s why the scores are the way they are. She’s working hard. We’re just not playing a lot of defense behind her.”

Although there isn’t much support behind Schreck, having Morgan Hill in front of her at catcher might be her saving grace. Hill has taken to the position this year and is helping Schreck command the strike zone as if she’s a veteran backstop.
All over the field, there are players taking on new experiences.
Sophomore Kayla Wallack and junior Danielle Koodsi are both figuring out new positions at the corners after spending last year covering ground in the outfield. At shortstop, freshman Arianna Corona is much more used to the pitch and hardwood than she is to the diamond but has shown potential with a strong arm.
Out of everyone, though, sophomore Sabina Musurmanova has had the most to learn. A transfer to West Hempstead this year from Europe, softball is about as foreign to Musurmanova as it gets. But that hasn’t stood in her way.
“She can throw, and she can run. Now we’ve got to teach you how to play the game because if she sticks with it, she’s going to help us because she’s fearless,”
Van Kovics said. “She’s a tough kid, and she’s working hard. She’s got great energy and enthusiasm.”
It’s in that mindset that Van Kovics sees a path forward for West Hempstead.
The results aren’t what he’d like them to be, but he isn’t discouraged by them either. Surely, he wants the Rams to win at least one game this season. Until then, he’s satisfied with incremental improvements.
“Every time we step in between the lines, we’re learning something new,” Van Kovics said. “From where we were beginning of the season, they’re definitely learning, and they’re getting better. We’re making plays that we weren’t at the beginning of the season, and now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
The Rams play three straight at home starting Thursday at 5 p.m. against North Shore. They host Locust Valley on Friday at 5 p.m. and Freeport on Saturday at 10 a.m.