PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Alex Viscusi isn’t about to take any credit. The Episcopal Academy senior star pitcher heading to Princeton would rather give it to senior shortstop Taylor Long.
The problem is, Long doesn’t want any praise, either. She would rather defer to Churchmen coach Terry Coyne.
The issue there is the first thing out of Coyne’s mouth is that Episcopal Academy’s sudden surge these last four years as a statewide softball power has had nothing to do with him, either. It could be any one of the other six seniors, infielders Julianne Longen, Kate Ortlieb and Gill Smith, or outfielders Anne Toner, Sophie Walker and Meredith Warchol and they’ll respond the same way: “It’s not us.”
So why are the Churchmen, looking on Friday to repeat as Inter-Academic League champions for the first time in school history with a victory over Penn Charter, so good?
How about looking at everyone associated with the program.
This season, the Churchmen are 21-3, which is an all-time school record for victories in a season. This comes after Episcopal won the Inter-Ac for the first time in school history last year, followed by the program’s first-ever PAISSA state championship.
It’s a far rise from a program that once finished 2-14—and Viscusi, the Churchmen’s star pitcher, is fully aware of it. She watched that rough season unfold in 2010 as an eighth grader from the stands.
“I watched them and I thought I would be able to contribute to the team and help out,” said Viscusi, a four-year starter who was a centerpiece of a one-year transformation that saw Episcopal go 17-9 her freshman year—a 15-game improvement.
“Last year, winning the Inter-Ac title, we got a chance to sit back and enjoy that a little more. But this year, we put that behind us. No one has really thought right now, in the present, what we’ve accomplished, because I think we still have more to accomplish. It started to dawn on us recently though when Coach Coyne actually mentioned this is our last league game on Friday. Then you think, ‘Wow, that was a fast four years.’ It’s crazy to think about.
“Our softball team thinks of ourselves as sisters, which is rare. You don’t see teams full of girls without some drama. We’ve had none. We’ve been together for so long, and it’s a team atmosphere where everyone has each other’s back. It’s nice to see a softball championship banner hanging in our gym with 2014 on it. We want to add another year.”
This is a special time in the program’s history. It’s their version of an Utley-Rollins-Howard-Hamels era.
“It’s the kids,” said Coyne, who’s assisted by his brother, Mike “Stumpy” Coyne, the former legendary Monsignor Bonner football coach. “Five years ago, we were 2-14 and I was coaching the same way that I am now. The difference is the kids. Five of these seniors started as freshmen. This is such a close group that has gotten better every year. This senior group easily goes down as the greatest team in the history of the program. I have no problem saying that. You’d go to war with these girls.”
Long, a three-year starter who’s headed to Franklin & Marshall for softball, transferred into Episcopal Academy her sophomore year from Marple Newtown.
She’s played an integral role in the Churchmen going 8-0 in the Disney Wide World of Sports tournament in March, and saw how Episcopal beat traditional Catholic League powerhouse Conwell-Egan, then steamroll over previously undefeated Chichester.
“The girls on this team welcomed me with open arms, and it was a new world for me when I came here,” Long said. “It’s neat to see the 2014 banner hanging in the gym. Coach Coyne set us up with a tough schedule, and we would like to add our graduating year to the banner. What I’ll probably remember the most about this team is the incredible bond we’ve had. But we’re not done yet.”