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ND Softball: Maldonado leads underclassmen on and off the field

Ernst Cleofe | Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Senior outfielder Alexa Maldonado hopes her career can begin just how it started: with a Big East championship.

Maldonado, the team’s captain, was not the same leader she is now when she started her career. As a highly-rated player coming out of Short Hills, N.J., she had experience as a four-year letter winner and a two-time team captain in high school.

The college level, however, is a completely different challenge.

Maldonado had success early as a freshman, but there was still room to grow. Irish assistant coach Kris Ganeff said the growth came quickly.

“I would definitely say,… her game has always been at the top. She’s always been able to play at 100 percent. She doesn’t know any other level,” Ganeff said. “What she has done over the four years is her mental side of the game has really come along. As a freshman, you saw her go from a freshman to a senior mentality wise and that was a huge growth for her.”

That growth has helped her become the leader that the team looks to for support. Ganeff points to Maldonado’s mentality and playing style as part of her success as a leader.

“Alexa is definitely a leader. She does a great job being a captain. A lot of it [is because] she has come very far in her mentality. She’s been able to lead the team in all aspects,” Ganeff said. “She always kind of leads by example with her play, and now she can lead with her words and people follow her because she does the right thing consistently on and off the field.”

In line with Ganeff’s perspective, Maldonado looks to lead with her performance on the field. After her second consecutive first team all-Big East performance last season, she is again performing well on the field. Maldonado is leading the team in on-base percentage, while second in batting average and total hits.

Her success has not only provided tangible results, but has set an example for her teammates, as well.

“I use my confidence and my demeanor on the field to guide them and make them look up to me,” Maldonado said, “I lead by example, mostly.”

On top of the growth during her freshman year, Maldonado experienced one of her top moments in softball during her rookie campaign when the Irish won the Big East championship. In her final year, she’s looking for the opportunity to help bring back that feeling.

“Winning [the] Big East [championship] my freshman year was my favorite moment so far,” Maldonado said. “It was an awesome team win and it was really exciting once that last out was made on the field, sprinting in from the outfield and jumping in with your team.”

The team has a long way to go to win the Big East and make the national tournament, but Maldonado is aiming high.

“I just want to do better than I have in previous years. Everything I’ve gotten in the past years should be expected,” Maldonado said. “I want to be the best I can for this team and hopefully lead them to regionals and hopefully the World Series.”

In order to make a serious run at the NCAA tournament, Maldonado and the Irish will have to continue the level of play they’ve established during their current six-game winning streak.

The Irish hope to keep continue their hot-streak when they host Northwestern on Wednesday.

Contact Ernst Cleofe at ecleofe@nd.edu