Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Jena Cozza and Meg Colleran shine on Senior Day for UMass softball

The two seniors each honored before Saturday's doubleheader

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(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Evan Marinofsky, Collegian Staff

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There were a lot of mixed emotions at Sortino Field on Saturday. The day began with Kleenex being passed around, but ended with jubilation.

For the Massachusetts softball team, Saturday afternoon marked the beginning of the final Atlantic 10 series of the season up against George Mason.

But for seniors Jena Cozza and Meg Colleran, Saturday afternoon meant a whole lot more. For them, it was Senior Day – the beginning of the end to their collegiate softball careers.

And these aren’t just any two seniors: these are the two standouts.

“They’ve been a part of a group of people who’ve helped me bring this program back up to where we’re used to being,” said UMass coach Kristi Stefanoni. “I know that they won’t be fulfilled until they do what they set their hearts and minds on which is an Atlantic 10 championship. But they’ve done a really good job of bringing back a winning culture.”

Cozza is a two-time NFCA All-Region selection. She ranks atop the UMass all-time list in on-base percentage and ranks in the top-10 in program-history in batting average, slugging-percentage, runs scored, home runs, total bases and hit-by-pitches. In 2014, Cozza took home the A-10 Rookie of the Year award.

This season has seen Cozza reach a totally different level of achievement. She broke school records in four offensive categories including slugging percentage and runs scored. Along with that, she leads the Atlantic 10 in six offensive categories while ranking in the top-three nationally in batting average, on-base percentage, runs per game and slugging percentage.

When it came to the senior ceremony, Cozza was not as successful at keeping it together.

“Me and Megan agreed that we were going to try not to cry for as long as possible,” said the Wantagh, New York native. “But as soon as she started walking out with her family I immediately started balling to my mom and sisters so it didn’t really work out.”

Colleran has experienced a similar amount of success in her time as a Minutewomen.

Throughout her tenure in the circle at Sortino Field, Colleran has thrown 634 innings while starting 101 games. She’s been a First-Team All-Atlantic 10 selection twice while ranking in the top-10 in UMass program-history in eight different pitching categories. That includes 57 career wins, 123 appearances, innings pitched and strikeouts.

As a junior, she was a NFCA First-Team All-Region selection. That same year saw her named the A-10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player after throwing all 16.1 innings in two championship games against Fordham a year ago. Plus, she won 20 or more contests during her sophomore and junior campaigns, becoming only the fifth Minutewomen to do it twice.

Like Cozza, Colleran found it a bit difficult to keep her eyes from watering during the ceremonies.

“I thought I had it together but then I saw Jena and then I started to cry,” said Colleran. “Just thinking about the past four years and watching all of the seniors since I’ve been here. It’s just crazy to think that I’m a senior and almost done.”

“I’m really proud of them and sad to eventually see them go,” Stefanoni added. “Hopefully, we have a couple more weeks left in us. They’re two great kids. I’m proud of both of them.”

In her possible last dance at Sortino Field, Colleran threw a complete-game shutout in game one, allowing four hits and striking out four. Cozza went 3-for-6 over the two wins.

When asked about both player’s legacies, Stefanoni was clear and concise.

“Hopefully filling a spot right there on that sign. Hopefully that’s what it is.”

The sign? The Atlantic 10 Championship banner hanging from the right field wall.

Only time will tell if that legacy will be fulfilled.

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at [email protected]

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