QUINCY -- Catherine Steinkamp has a simple goal. The less running the Quincy Notre Dame softball team does this preseason, the better.
Veteran coach Eric Orne would probably like that, too.
The Raiders committed more than 100 errors last season and finished the year 16-21, the first time QND finished below .500 since 2002.
That's made cleaning up the errors a priority this season as practice time is spent on defensive drills.
"If we have more than five errors, we start running," said Steinkamp, a sophomore catcher. "It definitely gets drilled in your head that we have to get this down."
The belief is if the defense is improved, all other aspects will follow.
"We were pretty bad defensively last year," Orne said. "We need to make strides defensively, and I think if we do that we'll be a lot stronger than what our record has been the last two seasons."
However, it's not as simple as fielding a ground ball or making a routine play. There's a mental approach, too.
"It's just being better and smarter about making plays," Orne said. "Defense is something you have to take pride in as a player, and if you have three of four of those kinds of players, it'll improve from there."
That's what the Raiders lacked last season, and it cost them.
"We'd just get down and put our heads down," sophomore pitcher Lexi Schaffer said. "Then it's error after error."
Those players returning are ready to put that behind them.
QND returns seven starters, and only third baseman Kegan Wall and outfielder Lauren Roberts are seniors. Wall was second on the team last season with 34 RBIs, while Roberts hit .261. Junior first baseman Kassidy Kenning returns after hitting .376 with two homers and 33 RBIs, and junior pitcher Madison Gilligan returns after throwing 85 innings. The rest of the team is dominated by underclassmen.
The Raiders might be young, but they have more experience than most youth-laden teams.
"It definitely raises our expectations," said Steinkamp, who hit .296 with 23 RBIs last season. "Coach Orne is expecting a lot out of us sophomores because we know the routine and should be able to get the job done. We have to be ready to do the job."
Having two returning pitchers should help the Raiders. Lexi Schaffer went 12-11 with a 3.25 ERA in 120 innings while striking out 78 as a freshman, while Gilligan racked up 80 strikeouts. How productive they are could dictate how QND's defense plays.
"We didn't have pitchers that would strike out a lot of batters last year," Orne said. "So there were more balls being put in play."
Being a young team also means the Raiders are still trying to find an identity.
"I think we're still a work in progress," Orne said. "We're just trying to get back to where we were four or five years ago."
QND at a glance
Coach: Eric Orne (510-219 at QND, 22nd season)
2018 record: 16-21
Returning starters: 3B Kegan Wall, Sr.; OF Lauren Roberts, Sr.; 1B Kassidy Kenning, Jr.; P/OF Lexi Schaffer, Soph.; C Catherine Steinkamp, Soph.; 2B Corinne Dickerman, Soph.; P/OF Madison Gilligan.
New faces: P/SS Eryn Cornwell, Fr.; C Lindsey Fischer, Fr.; P Emma Borrowman, Fr.
Key losses: 1B Kristin Martin; 2B Carolyn Dickerman.