Over their time in the New Berlin Eisenhower softball program, Ali Nowak and Riley Rossbach racked up quite the accomplishments.
The two played in the WIAA Division 2 state tournament as sophomores in 2014. Nowak was a part of three Woodland West conference championships, while Rossbach was on two of those teams.
By finishing their successful careers at Eisenhower with strong senior seasons to lead the Lions to a 19-6 record, Nowak and Rossbach were named to the Now Newspapers All-Suburban softball team.
A left-handed catcher
It didn't take Nowak long to stand out among prep catchers, partially due to the fact she was left-handed, a rarity among backstops.
But Nowak's game on the field was the main reason she instantly became an impact player for the Lions.
Nowak led the Lions with a .514 batting average and a .628 on-base percentage, hitting three home runs, 15 doubles and three triples with 33 RBIs and 37 runs scored. She walked 22 times and struck out just nine times in 70 at-bats. Behind the plate, Nowak committed just one error in 122 chances.
'Ali was the best fielding and throwing catcher that we have had at Ike,' Eisenhower coach Jeff Setz said. 'Very few people tried to steal a base when she was behind the plate. In addition to her outstanding defense, she was our leadoff hitter the past two years. She had a great eye for the strike zone and could hit for power and average. Her on-base average was outstanding.'
A four-year varsity player, Nowak followed the lead of former Eisenhower stars Katie Schlegel and Stephanie Lombardo during her first three years. But coming into her senior season, Nowak knew she had to become the vocal leader of the Lions.
'I felt like I got to be more of a leader this year working with a younger pitching staff,' Nowak said. 'Our pitchers were a sophomore and a junior. I was able to take on a leadership role. I felt I was successful in doing that.
'I always led by example, but this year, I had to step it up and be vocal.'
Nowak, who was also named first-team all-state by the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association, will play collegiately at Winona State University.
'I love watching Ali play,' Rossbach said. 'She has improved a lot as being a player who is super confident in her abilities. Her physical game has always been there, but she has improved her mental game.'
After being a first-team all-conference selection as a sophomore, Rossbach, in her own words, was mired in a hitting slump for most of her junior season.
Not meeting her own expectations was motivation enough, as she spent the off-season between her junior and senior seasons working with a hitting coach and starting a new workout program in the weight room.
'I really worked hard in the off-season,' Rossbach said. 'It was big to come back and show the hard work. It was fixing my swing and making it more fluid than choppy.'
Rossbach hit .382 with seven home runs, six double, three triples and 33 RBIs. She had three multi-homer games, homering twice against Pius XI Catholic on April 5, Homestead on May 7 and Pewaukee on May 13.
'Her power at the plate this year was insane,' Nowak said of Rossbach, who hit just one home run as a junior. 'She has always been strong defensively, but this year what really came alive was her power.'
Like Nowak, Rossbach will play at the next level, as she is headed to the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
'Riley had a great senior year as one of our team captains,' Setz said. 'She lead us in many ways, both on and off the field. Riley batted third in our lineup and had many clutch hits during the season.'
Eisenhower's Anna Lang, Andrea Leder and Meagan Loewus were named honorable mention All-Suburban.
Leder hit .393 with six doubles and 20 RBIs. The senior struck out just eight times in 74 at-bats. Loewus, a sophomore, hit .359 and walked 16 times in 39 at-bats.
With Lombardo and Schlegel having graduated, Lang took over as Eisenhower's primary pitcher as a sophomore. Lana went 11-5 with a 4.41 ERA, striking out 57 and walking 24 in 96 innings for the Lions.