Monday, May 4, 2015 – George Mason University / Fairfax, Virginia
Familiar sights, familiar sounds, familiar feelings. Backpacks in tote, Nike sneakers trudging toward a bus that awaits like a chariot for its passengers, and a feeling of anticipation like a pungent smell lingers in the air. We’ve done this countless times before, but this time, it’s a little bit different. This time, we’re playing for a championship and the right to do this all again next week.
For the past thirteen weeks of this season, and countless weeks before that, we’ve been playing for these next four days at the University of Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament. Countless mornings passed in the weight room, myriad grueling practices experienced through changing seasons, months spent living out of duffle bags, and enough miles accrued to cross the continental U.S. several times over, all for just four days in May and a chance to hoist that massive, silver trophy on Saturday afternoon.
That’s the great blessing and curse of these next four days, though. No matter what has occurred leading up to this point, for better or worse, teams across the country have the chance to start anew and either right the wrongs of these last thirteen weeks and advance to the Promised Land of the NCAA tournament, or get their hearts broken by the unpredictable nature of this game, and have the season come to an end. A great dichotomy of sorts, one could say.
For us Fordham Rams, we are as battle-tested and experienced as they come, and we know what’s at stake this week: our third straight Atlantic 10 Conference championship and trip to the NCAA tournament, or the end of our season and the completion of six softball careers, including my own.
As we head to UMass with the third seed in a tournament comprised of six qualifying teams, we are fully cognizant of the battles that lie ahead of us this week. While we have been humbled by this roller coaster ride of a season we have endured, we possess a quiet confidence in both our experiences in championship settings and in the way we have been playing lately.
So, when we step on the field at UMass this week, it will all be familiar. The sights, sounds, and feelings of a conference tournament with nearly everything to gain and so much to lose. But, the great beauty of playing college softball in May is that no matter how familiar things may seem at this point in the season, the ordinary always gives way to the extraordinary when a championship is on the line. That alone is an exciting thought.
No matter what the end result is this weekend, I know extraordinary things are in store for the next four days on Sortino Field at UMass, and on fields just like it across the country. After all, next to Christmas, this is the most wonderful time of year.