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ROUNDTABLE: 2024 Northwestern softball season predictions

The ‘Cats are back.

John Konstantaras

No further intro needed. Northwestern softball is back in action. What happens this spring? Just see below.

Iggy Dowling

Regular season record: 31-18 (14-10 B1G)

Big Ten finish: 5th

Postseason result: Loss in NCAA Regional on the road

Team MVP: Kansas Robinson

Buy stock now: Lauren Boyd

Even without the five departing super-seniors, this team’s floor is high. Its ceiling will depend on if young players like Kansas Robinson and Kelsey Nader can take another leap after an encouraging 2023. Without Danielle Williams, I think that the pitching takes a slight hit, but it won’t be because of Lauren Boyd. I think she’ll step into the ace role flawlessly after recording a 2.24 ERA last year. However, 2024 should be a reloading year, and I think the ‘Cats need a season to build before they can take down Nebraska, Minnesota and Indiana at the top of the Big Ten.

David Gold

Regular season record: 33-16 (18-6 B1G)

Big Ten finish: 3rd

Postseason result: Loss in NCAA Regional on the road

Team MVP: Kansas Robinson

______. Buy stock now: Bridget Donahey

The best time of the year.

The Wildcats look to take home the Big Ten title for the second year in a row, but formidable opponents like Nebraska, Indiana and Minnesota stand in their way. After losing its five super seniors, it may take some time early in the year for a young NU squad to find its footing. However, I firmly believe by the time Big Ten play comes around, Kate Drohan and Co. will play their best softball and will be in the hunt to raise the trophy again.

Bradley Locker

Regular season record: 30-19 (16-8 B1G)

Big Ten finish: 4th

Postseason result: Loss in NCAA Regional

Team MVP: Angela Zedak

______. Buy stock now: Ainsley Muno

Betting against Kate Drohan is analogous to doing it against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but this Northwestern team is in for a retooling after such a significant departure of not just talent, but also plate appearances and experience. The Wildcats still have enough pieces and returners to make noise, but I wouldn’t consider a postseason berth a lock by any means — especially in a Big Ten that’s always tough. The rotation will prove to be key sans Danielle Williams, but I expect NU’s lineup — buoyed by Zedak, Hannah Cady, Kansas Robinson and more — to keep the team afloat amid what could be a slower start.

Ethan Segall

Regular season record: 36-13 (18-6 B1G)

Big Ten finish: 2nd

Postseason result: Loss in NCAA Super Regional

Team MVP: Angela Zedak

______. Buy stock now: Emma Raye

I think I’m more optimistic on this team than the rest of the field. Despite the losses of several superstars, I absolutely think that this team can compete to win the Big Ten for the third consecutive regular season. That said, Nebraska, Indiana and Minnesota (and even Ohio State) all pose potent threats in the conference. MSU transfer Ashley Miller will have to look more like her 2021-22 self and Northwestern will have to find some offense in unexpected places, but with this program’s track record of development, I like Northwestern’s chances to usher in this new era with a competitive season. For the “buy stock now” category I was torn between Bridget Donahey, Emma Raye and Izzy Cunnea, but went for the first-year catcher. If you can’t tell, I’m beyond stoked to see the youth movement on this team and can’t wait to see who stands out.

Yanyan Li

Regular season record: 32-17 (16-8 B1G)

Big Ten finish: 4th

Postseason result: Loss in NCAA Regional on the road

Team MVP: Kansas Robinson

Buy stock now: Kelsey Nader

The impact of Danielle Williams, Skyler Shellmyer, Maeve Nelson, Nikki Cuchran, and Jordyn Rudd was massive for Northwestern softball, and the hole left by their absence will be too big to dig out of in just one season. This year, the story of the Wildcats’ season will not be about replicating the success they had in past years, but about laying a foundation for future success. I expect them to move down a few steps in Big Ten and national rankings, but if players like Kansas Robinson and Kelsey Nader build upon their freshman success while others see breakthroughs, I will view this season as a success.