It was the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday, May 6 and the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz Hawks softball team was beating the hosted SUNY Cortland Red Dragons, the dominating school of the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC). After a defensive error by the Hawks, they lost the lead and lost the game.
After the game, Hawk’s coach Denise Marchese smiled. “We played damn hard and I’ll be damned if we didn’t shake up the most feared team in the conference,” she said. “Let’s go take game two.” The 2010 Women’s Softball team earned one of the most victorious seasons in the history of Hawks softball and compiled a 20-18 overall season record in Marchese’s first year of coaching. For the fourth time in Hawk’s history, the softball team qualified for the SUNYAC Championship Tournament.
Marchese, 37, was named head softball coach at SUNY New Paltz last year, and has since set out to change the outlook on SUNY New Paltz athletics.
“Being a part of a national championship is indescribable,” she said, remembering the state and national championships she helped win in high school and college. “When you have worked so hard and reached something that seemed so unattainable, you finally realize anything is possible.”
This is the message Marchese sends to her team in practice and in play. As she walks the field during warm ups, Marchese looks for players who seems ready and determined to be the best. Throughout practice, she tests their perseverance by hitting balls over their heads and around their practical span of reach. She is looking for champions.
During a daily practice, Marchese manages infield, outfield, pitching, and catching practice like a maestro directs a symphonic band. While each group is busy with their own set of skills to perfect, the practice as a whole runs smoothly to create “perfect play.”
Once practice is over, Marchese returns to her office to look over the success of the day. Behind her desk is a giant white board full of names of potential players. Marchese carefully plans her team. “I was lucky [last year] to have had seven seniors who all lead by example,” she said. “This year is a building year.” Marchese confidently jots down names of players who she plans to test in tomorrow’s practice.
As she writes, she reminisces on her past experiences as a player. Growing up in Commack, Long Island, Marchese was inspired to play by her father who brought her to his softball games. She started playing softball when she was 6 years old. As the oldest child of three, with a younger brother and sister, Marchese led the way in accomplishments in softball. In her junior and senior years of high school, she was an All-League and All-County Player. Her coach, Bill Edwards, led the team to win the state championship.
“Bill was the most inspirational and influential coaches I have ever had,” she said. “He was truly the first coach that ever made me consider wanting to aspire to be a great coach.”
With Edwards, Marchese played for the PSI Couriers, an Amateur Softball Association (ASA) summer traveling team where she had the opportunity to travel to South Dakota, and won the ASA National Championship in 1987. She helped her team win the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship and placed fifth at the ASA National Tournament in 1989. Marchese went on to play at Eastern Connecticut State University where, as a four-year starter at first base, she received the Gold Glove Award three years in a row, among other still-reigning honors and achievements.
Marchese was 23 when she began coaching while in her fifth year of college. After graduating, Marchese became the head softball coach at St. Joseph College in West Hartford, Conn. for four years. “When I graduated college, I wasn’t as fortunate as graduates today who can apply to be grad assistants,” Marchese said. “I was very lucky to have been able to be an assistant and gain the experience.”
In 2000, Marchese became the head coach at SUNY Oneonta for three seasons. She was later promoted as the assistant coach at Central Connecticut State University, where she worked for five years. Feeling that she was very familiar with the SUNYAC and believing she had a niche in coaching, Marchese decided to apply for the head coaching position at SUNY New Paltz.
Despite having only a year of SUNY New Paltz coaching under her belt, Marchese is recruiting for the 2012 season. “Building a name is important for the college,” she said, “and recruiting is not easy.”
With a chuckle and a spin of her chair, she popped up from her desk remembering she had to get home to feed her beagle Charlie.
“See you on the field?” Marchese asked with a grin as she shut her office door.