Not a whole lot looks the same for the William Tennent softball team this year.

Actually, that isn't entirely true. The personnel, for the most part, hasn't changed.

What's different is just where coach Biz Keeny decided to put the players on the field.

Laura Petri played most of last season in the infield. This year, she tracks down fly balls and hits in left field.

As for Casey McMahon, she moved from the outfield last year to first base this year, and Whitney Delagol plays third, whereas last season, she was at shortstop.

The batting order has changed, too. Just ask Petri, who now bats cleanup.

The biggest transformation, however, has been the way the Panthers (7-1 overall, 4-0 Suburban One National) have come out to start the season - sitting atop the conference, undefeated in league play.

It is a dramatic change that starts with the way Tennent is playing defense.

"The biggest difference from years past is that we have defended," Keeny said, matter-of-factly.

"We are committing to playing defense, wanting to play defense, and more importantly, we aren't trying to do things that we aren't capable of doing. We are trying to minimize and not compound those mistakes defensively."

The solid play in the field has helped the Panthers seniors defeat Neshaminy and Pennsbury, two perennial powerhouses, for the first time in their tenure at Tennent.

"On defense, we are doing a good job of keeping our errors to a minimum," Petri said. "We aren't throwing the ball away too much. We make the catches we need to make and cover the bases we need to cover."

With all the alterations, one thing has remained the same: the stalwart presence of senior Nikki Alden in the pitching circle for the Panthers.

Alden, a St. Joseph's signee, praised the play of junior second baseman Sara Keeny and sophomore shortstop Jackie Heim, and raved about her freshman catcher, Marissa Govan.

Players of that caliber in the infield give Alden a lot of confidence inside the circle. When needed, Alden can mow down opponents, but for the most part, she leaves it to the defense to get the job done.

So far, the strategy has worked.

"This is our year," Alden said. "I think we are finally buying into that."