2015 Fordham Softball – Week 17 / Championship Synergy

Monday, May 11, 2015 – Atlantic 10 Tournament / Amherst, Massachusetts

(Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

(Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

I remember studying Aristotle’s concept of synergy in my Philosophical Ethics class during my sophomore year. From a desk in Fordham’s hallowed Keating Hall, I learned about this two thousand year old idea stating that the whole of something is greater than the sum of its parts. A model following the notion that when individual figures are combined within an arithmetic operation, the figure that follows the equal sign is always superior in value than the ones that precede it. Maybe Aristotle was a sportsman back in his day, because his profound thoughts reflect the ultimate metaphor for teamwork, which was on display for us this past week in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.

Following a regular season that saw our team frequently competing as individual figures rather than a cohesive whole, there were enough ups and downs to make even roller coaster enthusiasts queasy. But, we Rams finally discovered the synergy that had been lacking for many of the previous fifty games, and fortunately, it was found in the nick of time.

Just a handful of weeks ago, however, our erratic play had caused us to question whether or not we would even qualify for the conference tournament. We began to hear the whispers of outsiders and naysayers, and had intermittently fallen into the trap of doubting our collective ability to capture a third straight championship. But, similar to how the trees seem barren one day and in full bloom the next, something suddenly and inexplicably began to blossom for us just recently between the white lines.

Entering the conference tournament as the third seed, we cruised through the six-team bracket during our stay in Amherst, Massachusetts. Like a well-oiled machine, we won four-straight games, including victories over second-seeded St. Louis and top-seeded Dayton in the championship game, even though both teams had combined to beat us four times during the regular season. Against the odds and predictions, we became the first three-seed in our conference’s history to hoist the trophy on championship Saturday.

On paper, though, we weren’t supposed to win the tournament this year. SLU had walked-off on us twice during our first conference series of the season in March in devastating, come-from-behind fashion, and Dayton had mercied us on our home field during Easter weekend. Even though we had displayed dominance against every other team in the conference, there was such a great disparity that existed between the top three squads in the Atlantic 10 and the rest of the teams this year. Thus, despite our impressive 17-5 conference record, we were still viewed as the third best team in the A10. On paper, that is.

But, like we had been reminding ourselves since the last time we played and lost to SLU and Dayton, championships aren’t won in the chilly days of March and April; they are won in the heat of May. And, no matter how bumpy the ride may have felt earlier this season, the synergy that ensued last week was certainly worth the wait.

That’s the great thing about sports, though. No matter what the prognosticators predict, the critics critique, or the numbers suggest, the one ineffable characteristic about competition is its human element. And with that, comes a whole slew of possibilities. Like the synergy that a team can kick into high-gear at the most opportune of times, and go from performing as individuals to competing as a unified whole that is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The most beautiful of sights on a softball diamond, if you ask me.

So, fresh off the heels of our seemingly improbable Atlantic 10 championship, here’s to hoping that our synergy persists in the upcoming NCAA Regional at James Madison University, even if for just a few more days.

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Glorious Triumphs and Worthwhile Experiences

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 – Atlantic 10 Tournament / Bronx, NY (A10 TOURNAMENT CHAMPS)

Rams posing with the trophy after the big win.

Rams posing with the trophy after the big win. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

I took the time to look around and take it all in. In the 5th inning, with the score 11-0 and a trip to the NCAA Tournament just three outs away, I gave myself the chance to truly enjoy what was happening at that very moment.

It wasn’t exactly what I had imagined it would be, but then again, most things usually aren’t. When a championship game is decided by the mercy-rule, the immediate thrill of victory isn’t nearly as electrifying. After letting it sink in for a few days, however, I’m glad there was never any doubt that we were going to win that final game against St. Louis because it allowed me to step outside of myself for the last three outs, and live in that moment I had been dreaming about all year.

So much of my writing over the course of this season has been about seizing the moment, enjoying the journey, and even appreciating the seemingly difficult things along the way. In a matter of three outs, probably equaling about five to seven minutes, I was able to do each of those things.

Talk about things coming full circle.

Perfect symmetry, as Lauren and Amy celebrate (left), while Elise and I do the same (right).

Perfect symmetry: Lauren and Amy celebrate (left), while Elise and I do the same (right). (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

I thought about the grueling 6am conditioning workouts in our outfield in September, as well as the time spent practicing and earning the right to be standing on the field at that very moment.

I flashed back to some of the hardest times during the season, too; I looked at Elise next to me at shortstop and remembered how, two months ago after a painful loss to Central Michigan in Florida, she had said that it wasn’t too late to turn our season around, and that we could go on a run and eventually be laughing about all the struggles we had endured.

I looked around and took in the beautiful surroundings of Bahoshy Field, which had not been that packed since Alabama came to play us in 2012. With the banners hanging high along the fence and the home crowd buzzing for the championship they knew to be inevitable, I felt a sense of pride.

When the final out was ultimately recorded (a line drive right back to Michele at the mound), I ran and jumped into Elise’s arms for the second consecutive year; a childlike celebration reflecting the pure and unadulterated joy of the moment.

Rams mob Sydney after leading off the championship game with a home run.

Rams mob Sydney after leading off the championship game with a home run. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

After the game, a few of my friends were commenting about how I had a huge smile plastered across my face during the entirety of the last inning. I couldn’t help but smile, both outwardly and inwardly. We had done it. We had accomplished our biggest goal of repeating as Atlantic 10 Champions, and had done so on our home field. We had overcome struggles from the beginning of the journey that had caused us to question our team’s identity and make a conscious choice to alter the trajectory of our season. We had risen to the occasion and played our best softball when it mattered most, as we swept through the three games we played in the Atlantic 10 tournament without leaving a doubt in anyone’s mind that we were the best team in the conference.

Although the championship game may have reflected an easy path to victory, with the score being lopsided and the mercy-rule coming into effect, the irony of the situation is that the road to the championship was anything but easy for us. As a team, we had to endure some of the lowest of lows throughout the season; from being humbled for the first time in Charleston, to going 0-5 in California, to the disaster that was the Bradley game, to team and personal conflicts throughout the journey, and most recently, to the embarrassment of being swept by Dayton, our journey to the top of the mountain had several pitfalls along the way.

Me and the trophy, a moment I had been waiting for all season.

A moment I had been waiting for all season. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

But, as Thomas Paine said, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

To me, the value of our 2014 Atlantic 10 Conference Championship is greater than any trophy or banner could ever symbolize; it rests in the memories I will always cherish and the people I experienced the journey with.

As we continue our season at Florida State University in the NCAA Regionals this upcoming weekend, I plan to continue seizing the moment, enjoying the journey, and even appreciating the seemingly difficult things along the way. After all, that’s what makes the triumphs glorious and the experiences worthwhile.