Michelle Switzer knows she has some pretty big shoes to fill. But her combination of passion, experience, skill and love of the game makes her the perfect choice for the Spartans going forward.
Switzer takes over as head of the Williamsville North Lady Spartans softball team this season after long time head coach and architect of the program’s run of success Rick Bubar stepped down at the end of last season.
Switzer, who served as Burbar’s JV coach, said she feels lucky to have had Bubar as a mentor as she now tries to continue to build on what he created.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill with Rick obviously being so organized,” Switzer said. “Looking at everything that he did and the organization that he had is just kind of overwhelming. He’s there for me still. He’s helped me out with practices and tryouts. If I ever need anything he’s right there so it’s so wonderful to have him still be part of the program.”
But Switzer is no stranger to the game herself. A member of the Williamsville South Class of 2006, Switzer was part of the Lady Billies run of success under the late Gerry Gentner that included NYSPHSAA Class A titles in 2004 and 2006.
Being named first team all-state are among the truck load of honors and awards Switzer won before continuing her career in college, playing at Liberty College then at Canisius.
Switzer also feels very fortunate to be working with longtime friend and teammate Lindsay Garbacz who will serve as the Spartans pitching coach. Garbacz, who went to Lancaster High School and was named WNY Pitcher of the Year her senior year, is also a first team all-state selection who played for Canisius College.
“I couldn’t be more excited about that. It makes all the difference in the world in a sport like softball to have an assistant coach,” Switzer said. “To have one like Lindsay with her knowledge. Her expertize, her help with the pitchers I can totally see that the energy is just so high. There aren’t people standing around, everybody is doing something at practices. The girls are excited about it. She has a great personality to compliment mine. I just can’t say enough about it. Everyday I walk away from practice being so thankful for everything that she helps with. Just one person (coaching) is so difficult. When you have a person of Lindsay’s caliber it’s absolutely amazing.”
A solid coaching staff in place Switzer and Garbacz will have plenty of on field talent to work with as they return a core of girls from a team that went 13-10 last season before falling in the Section VI Class AA semifinals.
Leading the way for the Spartans in 2017 will be senior pitcher Emily Nicosia, who will be heading to Canisius herself after high school.
“It all starts with her,” Switzer said.
Nicosia will be a double threat for the Spartans as she will hit in the clean up spot.
Junior Miranda Fish (2B/3B) brings that mix of power and speed that makes her a natural choice for lead off hitter.
Sophomore shortstop Anna Brand will likely follow Fish in the two-hole as she brings that mix of hitting for power and making contact. She might also see time in the third spot in the batting order.
The Spartans, at least on paper, look like they won’t be lacking in the heart of the order as sophomore catcher Abby Vincent brings a smooth, powerful swing as well.
Senior Renee Shapiro will play second base and see time batting in the third, fifth and sixth slots depending on what is needed from game to game.
“I’m super excited to be able to get on this competitive level with the girls,” Switzer said. “Girls that I worked with on JV, I think I coached every single one of them except for maybe one girl. It’s fun to be able to see them grow and develop as athletes and to see where we can go with them this year.”
With the level of competition in WNY, especially in ECIC I with opponents like Orchard Park, Clarence and defending division champion Lancaster, the Spartans feel they have a line up that can not only compete, but also succeed.
“We have high expectations for them,” Switzer said. “Obviously like any program should be, our goal is to come out on top, regardless. We know that there are some teams that have had success in the past in our league, but our goal is to play our game and to not really compare ourselves to anybody else. We’re gonna work harder than anybody else to come out on top.”