Ole Miss softball has had its ups and downs over the past few years, but the one constant over the past three has been R.T. Cantillo. The junior outfielder has been a steady leader for the Lady Rebels, especially through the transition to a completely new coaching staff.
Cantillo has experienced what every athlete dreads the most: two coaches in as many years. Her freshman year, Cantillo played for Missy Dickerson, who was fired after six seasons, and now she is under the direction of Windy Thees, who has coached the past two seasons.
“It was definitely tough to adjust to two different coaches with completely different mentalities and coaching styles,” Cantillo said. “With Coach Missy, we were always practicing one thing at a time, and it was ‘Work on this, get better on this.’ And with Coach Thees, we are working on three things at one time.”
It may have been a tough adjustment for the team, but as individual performance goes, Cantillo did not show any signs of struggle adapting to the new coaching philosophies. If anything, she improved.
Cantillo had a team-leading .315 batting average her freshman year. In her sophomore campaign, she increased her average by almost 60 points, hitting a solid .374 to go along with 26 RBIs and three home runs.
This season she is hitting .320 with 23 RBIs and five home runs. While she has been excelling at the plate, the team as a whole has hit a rut, starting conference play 2-13, which takes a toll on a player.
“Being able to keep energy up when you’re right on the line and you know you are doing the best you possibly can, it’s hard to train and push yourself a little further, even if it’s just one extra step,” Cantillo said. “It’s hard to break through that barrier.”
Cantillo said she feels the team has mainly had difficulties trying to put all the pieces together at the same time.
“The primary struggle was being able to connect as one unit and being able to just have our pitching, our hitting and our fielding come together, officially come together,” she said. “We’re still trying to keep that consistent, but it’s been getting a lot better.”
Cantillo is considered one of the leaders on the team, but there is a system in place called the “Captains Council” that allows her and the three seniors not to have to shoulder the leadership on their own. In this system, each class has a representative who meets and discusses any issues the team has, and the seniors have the final say.
With Ole Miss mostly through the rough part of its conference schedule, Cantillo will look to continue her consistent offensive production and leadership to help turn the Lady Rebels‘ season around.