6th Place at the 20th EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP

Women’s National Team Program Recap

July 24, 2017

Athens, Greece – The 2017 Women’s National team program came to an end on July 1st and plans have already begun for 2018. A program that began in October 2016 with the naming of a new coaching staff and with the identifying and naming of the athletes for the 2017 program. Led by 30 year veteran Head Coach Tony Foti, the program saw 7 new players join the women’s national team with 8 returning players from 2016.

The focus of the 2017 campaign was the Women’s European Championship held from Aug 25-July 1 in Bollate, Italy. The European Championship saw Greece field the youngest team in the tournament with an average age of 21.7 and collectively only 20 years of international softball experience.

But after a tough and grueling camp held in Riccione, Italy from the 18-24 of June, the 2017 Women’s National team was ready to face top European competition. Coming in with a pre-tournament 10th seed, the Hellas side was looking to better that mark. “We trained hard! Collectively as a group, players and staff, we worked on preparing for the tournament but more importantly prepared for our opening day which would define our tournament,” commented Head Coach Tony Foti. “We knew that we needed to acclimatize to the extreme Italian heat, but also to the fast pace of international softball.”

Team Hellas came out of the gate on fire, winning 4 of its first 5 games, but more importantly defeating a strong German squad predicted to be a top 6 finalist. Team Hellas also held the eventual champions, The Kingdom of Netherlands to a 0-3 score over the first 5 innings, a feat no one had been able to do throughout the tournament. Team Hellas advanced to round 2 for only the second time in ESF history and was now a top 8 team, looking to continue this magical week. Facing a home Italian side on prime time in front of 3000 spectators, Team Hellas lost a heartbreaker 2-0 to the defending European Champions and pre-tournament favorites. “We were just too inexperienced versus a top 10 team in the world,” stated Foti. “We had great performances from our entire squad, we were not intimidated and played on even footing with them for 7 innings. With a little luck, who knows, maybe things could’ve been different.”

Nonetheless, Team Hellas had one more challenge to face. Qualifying as a top 6 team and being one of Europe’s elite teams was the new goal, but standing in the way was the Swedish National Team. Once again, Team Hellas rose to the occasion, and easily disposed of the Swedes while advancing to the top 6. “We had set a goal of wanting to be a top 6 team in Europe. We wanted to set the groundwork for future successes. But looking at the competitive field, once you start playing, you realize that we were making history. We beat some of Europe’s Elite! We are now a legitimate top team. The team has reached a level that it can be proud of and use as the building block for 2018,” said Foti.

Our last goal was to be a top 4 and attempt at qualifying for the 2018 World Championships in Japan. Unfortunately, this is where the road ended. After losing a heart breaker to Russia, a team beatable earlier in the week, Team Hellas ran out of gas. Losing to the Russians and then the Czechs to close out the tournament in 6th place. “I cannot express how proud I am of this group,” says Foti. “The team worked hard in preparing for the event and then played hard and left everything on the field. Our youth may have been a factor. The top 4 teams especially were better experienced for playing 12 games at this high level over a 7 day period. Nevertheless, we grew a lot and gained valuable experience. We have put ourselves in a position to continue to grow and seek better results as we prepare for the 2019 Olympic Qualifier. We surprised several countries early in the tournament, but then we started winning and thusly we faced everyone’s’ top team, faced everyone’s ace. We were treated with the respect deserved, but that also made each game a challenge.”

“This was a total team effort. My staff worked their butts off! From pre-planning and logistics to daily practice planning, to transportation and laundry. My staff is committed to making this program successful!” explained head coach Tony Foti.

The program now heads into the off-season with a renewed hope and energy. In 2018, the Greek Softball Federation looks to participate in several international events. With the U19 European Championships scheduled for July 16-21 in Staranzano, Italy and the U22 games in Trnava, Slovakia from July 23-28, the Greek Softball Federation looks to also attend the European Top 6 Women’s National Team Tournament and the 2018 Canada Cup. Off-season training camps are scheduled for December and June.

“I am extremely satisfied and proud of what coach Foti and his staff were able to accomplish with our 2017 Women’s National Team, and honored to have had such a wonderful group of young ladies representing Greece,” commented Greek Softball Federation president Kostis Liarommatis. “We are committed to the success of our program and bring Hellas softball to the forefront in international softball.”

“This was a monumental challenge for us, and I need to thank coach Foti and his staff for their tireless work, all our corporate sponsors, the athletes and their families and the players’ colleges who also contributed greatly,” said Liarommatis. “This was a project put together in 8 months, which included identifying an additional 34 players to our talent pool, generating the revenues needed to pull off such an ambitious project and the corporate partners to make it viable. This was a $60,000 commitment to the national team. The player and sponsor contributions made this happen!”

The athletes who participated in the success of the team were the following: Skarogianni Dora, Zavitsanou Rania, Panagiotou Konstantina, Stavrou Loren, Lisikatos Chelsea, Lisikatos Samantha, Turner Demi, Patonis Demi, Iliopoulos Anyssa, Iliopoulos Mary, Marinakis Mia, Markopoulos Olivia, Tsirigos Caramia, Gialketsis Nikki, Spirakis Helen and Bazos Alexis.

The coaching staff consisted of : Foti Antonino, Shane Mcdonald, Santiago Angelo, Trigonakis Babis, Cerri Candida, Horafas Denise and Pedroli Marta. The leader of the delegation was the president of the Greek Softball Federation Kostis Liarommatis.