When it comes to the world of sports, there’s something about superstitions that almost everyone involved believes in. Specifically, in baseball and softball, a rally cap is when a player turns their hats inside-out and backward to spark a come-from-behind win. Here at Marist, Junior Olivia Knopf of the Softball team has embodied this rally cap spirit and become an inner icon on a team full of superstars.
Over her past three seasons, she has grown into the role of being the heart and soul of this team. “Always smiling, always happy, it’s infectious,” head coach Joe Ausanio said when describing the positive attitude she brings to the team.
With practices year-round, as well as a full schedule of work for her education major, she never fails to bring this spirit with her. Her teammates notice and feed off her positivity as well; redshirt senior and third basemen Claire Oberdorf deemed her “the definition of a true teammate.”
Last season — just to further solidify the impact she maintains — she received the coach’s award. A high honor capped off with some equally high praise: Ausanio said, “She for sure is the heart and soul of this team. She is Marist Softball.”
Not just anyone can throw a hat on backward and give the team the power to win. You have to really believe in it to make it happen, and according to teammate Ali Milam, no one else gives quite as much effort as Olivia.
“She is always putting her helmet on backwards, getting the rally caps going,” she said. “Always cheering, standing on a bucket, leaning over the fence, physically on the field… she’s just always into it.”
Her spirit and energy that she carries with her is just another element of the winning culture that Ausanio has instilled into this team. With an overall record of 35-22 last season, her teammates could certainly attribute some of that success to Knopf going wild for them in the dugout. Positivity fuels competitiveness, and Knopf loves the intersection of the two.
“I love to win, I love to be the best,” she said. “Every little drill we do in practice, I want to drive and motivate everyone around me.” Her inner competitor doesn’t just come out in practice and on the field according to Claire Oberdorf. “We will always talk about our nails together and joke about who has better nails,” she noted. To Olivia, Marist softball players must live by four rules, “We get our nails done together, we get Dunkin’ together, we keep our Aquaphor in our back pockets, and before every game — including coach Morgan — we spray Sun Bum in our hair.” Just another few superstitions that she carries on with pride.
While she shines in her own way, Olivia Knopf hasn’t quite had her chance to shine on the field yet, appearing in just 43 games her first two years. But her influence is palpable. Softball has been a part of her whole life since she was four years old, going back to her hometown of Yorktown Heights in Westchester. Through the game, she ended up meeting one of her best friends, Anna Nuccio. The two grew up together, before being split apart in high school. Now reunited here at Marist, both studying education, Anna has seen firsthand what her lifelong friend can do as a teacher.
“Her enthusiasm, her heart, and her patience will carry her through her education career,” she said. From her best friend to her coach, everyone believes in her potential. “When there are human resource people looking to hire teachers, I think Olivia Knopf’s resume is going to be at the top.” Her positivity follows her everywhere, from the dugouts into the classrooms of elementary students. She mentioned that she loves kids, and loves making people happy; “…there’s just a satisfaction with putting a smile on someone’s face,” Knopf said.
Like every sports team, the players and coaches become a family as they bond through the wins and losses of a season. For Knopf, family is the backbone of who she is as a person. She tries to go home every Sunday for family dinner, and always knows that, when staring down a pitcher, she can look up to find her father rooting her on in the stands. She noted that she doesn’t think he’s missed a single game in her career.
She credited her father for being her role model in softball, and her mother as her role model for teaching. Having such a strong family bond only propels her to lead and act in the way she does. She wants what’s best for her team and her teammates this season — ideally, that’s a MAAC title. She also, naturally, just can’t stop thinking about getting back up on a bucket in the dugout.