Leesburg, Va. – Riverside High School rising freshman Malaka Belser has made an early verbal commitment to continue her softball career at Division I Syracuse University starting in the 2021-2022 academic year.
“I chose Syracuse University because as soon as I walked onto campus it felt right and I felt comfortable,” the 5-foot-3 catcher said. “The coaches stressed that Syracuse is a top academic college, so I definitely want to play the sport I love there.”
Syracuse University was founded in 1870 and is located in the heart of Syracuse, New York. SU offers more than 200 majors across thirteen schools and colleges for their 22,000 students. The school’s athletic teams are nicknamed the “Orange,” reflecting the school color. SU competes in the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference, cheered on by their mascot, Otto the Orange.
“Since I started playing softball, I always knew that I wanted to play softball at the next level,” Belser said. “I knew that the only way to get to the next level was to work harder and harder every day, which I did and have been doing.”
The Ashburn-native started playing softball because she would go to all her brother’s baseball games and watch him. After realizing how much she enjoyed the game, her parents decided to sign her up for softball. She followed her older brother’s footsteps and credits him, along with their parents, for being her biggest role models.
“My favorite part about softball is that it’s such a fast moving and competitive game,” Belser said. “You always have to be ready for anything that comes your way. I also love the relationship that you are able to build with your teammates.”
A young and rising freshman, Belser has already made many achievements in the softball world. One of her biggest accomplishments to date was playing at the PGF Nationals in California. For the past two years, Belser and her teammates have participated in one of the most competitive softball tournaments with girls from all over the country. Belser states that she has been fortunate to have good coaching on all of her teams. However, she credits Nikki Andrade— her club team coach for the Vienna Stars 14U — for truly helping her develop into the player she is today.
“Malaka is an extremely hard worker and brings a great deal of energy to the game,” Andrade said. “Malaka has a presence about her while behind the plate and in the box.”
Belser will join the Syracuse softball family in 2021. The team — currently led by head coach Mike Bosch — finished the 2017 season with an overall 31-19 record. The team also gained national attention with senior pitcher Sydney O’Hara’s strong .629 on base percentage, 30 points better than the next best player in the country . O’Hara was among the ten finalists for USA Softball’s Player of the Year.
“When I get to Syracuse, I will add a dedicated hard worker that is coachable to the team,” Belser said. “I am always looking to develop and improve my game. I also enjoy playing with my teammates and competing all the time. Being committed to college feels great, but I know there is still a lot of work in front of me. I just want to enjoy the process.”