2015 Fordham Softball – Week 11 / Being Knocked Off the Horse and Getting Back On

Saturday, March 28, 2015 – La Salle University / Bronx, New York

After a disappointing series in St. Louis, we pulled together and got back on the horse against La Salle this weekend.

After a disappointing series in St. Louis, we pulled together and got back on the horse with a convincing sweep of La Salle this weekend. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

If you ask most people on our team to rank the worst softball experience of their careers, I bet the events of last weekend in St. Louis would crack the top three. For me, however, last weekend took the cake as the single-worst softball experience I’ve ever endured.

Everyone with a vested interest in Atlantic 10 Softball finally got what they had been waiting ten months for: a rematch of last year’s conference championship game between the two best teams in the A10. And the weekend slate did not disappoint, as Fordham vs. SLU generated three extremely eventful games to boot.

Much to the surprise and disgust of our tall-walking, chest-puffing, two-time defending champion-selves, we dropped two out of our three contests against the Billikens. However, these were not just any two losses in a sport that by the season’s end, even teams in the Top 25 have nearly twenty defeats. These were two of the most difficult-to-swallow losses one who has ever played or been involved with softball could imagine.

We got walked-off on in the bottom of the seventh inning, twice. Twice. In the same weekend. By the same team. Even worse, we held comfortable leads in both games before the bottom fell out from underneath us, twice.

While the first loss was certainly a stinger, as a walk-off home run purged the St. Louis players and fans of the celebratory screams that had been dormant within them since last May, it was the second loss that evoked some of the most poignant and incensed feelings I’ve ever experienced between the white lines.

In the ultimate act of retribution, St. Louis matched each run we embarrassed them with in our 11-0 championship game steamroll last season. They beat us 11-10 in the series’ heartbreaking finale. Unlike 10 months ago, they did not falter or collapse under the weight our 8-run cushion, but rather, appeared to be fueled by it. It was as if their plan had been to give us familiar feelings of security, which we had previously felt against them on May 10, 2014, by allowing us to momentarily possess a massive lead. This time, however, they ripped away our sense of security in the most painful of ways, with their late-inning dramatics. They had knocked us off of our high horse.

While I respected what they had done, as any lover of the sport would, I absolutely hated it. For nearly two days, sleep evaded me, sickness was experienced, and a seemingly permanent pit was planted inside my stomach. Even 48 hours later, I just could not shake that second loss.

But, as my father learned from former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and has reminded me countless times throughout my softball career, “a great thing about this game is that you get to wake up and play it again.” While the college softball schedule isn’t exactly like that of Major League Baseball’s 162-game grind, it is similar. On Tuesday, when I got the chance to play again, the pain of the weekend had been lessened, and by Wednesday, when we played and won our home-opener against Iona, the anguish had almost completely subsided.

While the agony of defeat experienced in St. Louis was the worst I’ve ever endured, it forced my teammates and me to learn more than we ever would have without it. It’s funny, because when you win, you never look at the things you did wrong, but when you lose, especially in heartbreaking fashion, you’re reminded of every grueling detail and forced to realize your own shortcomings. No doubt, a blessing in disguise.

The losses forced us to collectively do the little things better this week; study film, break down mechanics, look within ourselves and question who we are and what we need to do in order to become who we want to be. Plain and simple, we got back to basics after our disastrous weekend in St. Louis.

As we play our second conference series this weekend at home against La Salle, we are renewed. Humbled, sure, but instilled with a new sense of hunger. One that serves as a reminder of what was done to us last weekend, how it made us feel, and what we must do to get back on top.

And, as a softball veteran with countless experiences on both the winning and losing side of things, I know it is much better to lose like we did to SLU in March, than to have it happen when it matters most in May.

Now, it’s time to get back on that horse.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 10 / Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

Friday, March 20, 2015 – St. Louis University / St. Louis, Missouri

In just a matter of minutes, the view from our Southwest Airlines flight went from daunting to clear as day, serving as a metaphor for the trajectory of our season.

In just a matter of minutes, the view from our Southwest Airlines flight went from daunting to clear as day, serving as a metaphor for the trajectory of our season.

I was nervous as we waited for takeoff. With heavy snow pounding the runway’s pavement and gusting winds causing our Southwest Airlines airplane to tremor, feelings of anxiety and vulnerability were conjuring up inside of me. This was the worst weather we had experienced on the runway in my four years at Fordham, and I thought for sure that we were destined for an about-face and a short trip back to the safety of the airport. But, our pilot had other ideas and decided to brave the elements. A mistake, I thought, for sure.

As the several tons of steel we occupied accelerated along the runway, I braced my armrest in fear of what I could not control; feeling small and powerless amid something as big and daunting as an airplane and its irrevocable takeoff. The plane was going to take flight, no matter what the intensity of my trepidation was. I had to just trust that our plane and its operators were prepared to lead us through the storm, and that ultimately, God was in control of it all.

When the wheels left the ground, the airplane emerged from the pavement with uncertainty, struggling initially to find its balance and straighten its path for the first few seconds of its ascendance. As we loomed higher and higher above the East River with each passing moment, we abruptly became captivated by a sea of grey. The very storm clouds that were the sources of my anxiety had engulfed us in their rage and shaded any comforting colors and sights of onward progress from view. It was as though we were moving at rapid speeds, but not really headed anywhere, or at least anywhere promising.

Then, in a matter of minutes (which felt like hours, nonetheless), we emerged into what appeared to be a different stratosphere. Our ascension through the clouds had carried us above the storm, and in the midst of the brightest blue sky and sunshine I had ever seen. Below us, feathery clouds gave the impression that they were cradling our aircraft and softening its weight, along with the burden of my fears.

We had literally traveled out of the darkness and into the light.

Following the short time of fear and uncertainty I had endured at the beginning of our flight, the rest of the journey was as smooth as one could imagine, with rays of sunlight illuminating the cabin and never-ending horizons stretching further than my eyes could see. The polar opposite of what our trip was looking like at its start.

Our flying experience today somewhat mirrors what we have experienced since the first week of February. Although it may appear differently to outsiders, this season has been a stormy one at times, as rough experiences and bad days during our tough pre-conference stretch of traveling and playing sometimes left us with fears and doubts about the remainder of our time together in uniform. For me personally, things have often felt grey this season like they did amongst those storm clouds today; like my senior season has been passing me by at rapid speeds, but I’ve been unable to see any color along the way to brighten my journey because of several instances that have, at times, clouded its enjoyment.

But, the metaphor that our most recent flying experience created has given me great hope for all that lies ahead. In trusting that, like our Southwest airplane, we have already braved the grey and stormy elements of our season and are destined for beautiful forecasts ahead, I am optimistic.

It is ironic that today is the official start of spring because tomorrow is the onset of another season for our team; it is the beginning of Atlantic 10 Conference play and the dawn of our real season, the one that will determine our seeding in the conference tournament and position to win a championship in May.

As we begin our conference slate against a very tough St. Louis team this weekend, it is important for me to remember all that was realized and experienced today aboard Southwest Airlines flight 395. No matter how uncertain or daunting things may have seemed at times during these past six weeks, I firmly believe that every struggle has served as a test of our durability and ability to trust in the process and the greater plan for our season. And ultimately, it is crucial to know that on an airplane, in softball, and in life, it is often the time spent in darkness that allows one to truly appreciate the light.

I know the light lies ahead.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 9 / A Revitalizing Delay on the Runway

Thursday, March 12, 2015 – N.C. State / Raleigh, North Carolina

Sophomore Lindsay Mayer gets mobbed after her big walk-off hit to give us a 9-inning, 3-2 win over Lipscomb at N.C. State.

Sophomore Lindsay Mayer gets mobbed after her big walk-off hit to give us a 9-inning, 3-2 win over Lipscomb at N.C. State.

For anyone who has ever traveled by airplane, there’s almost nothing worse in the flying experience than getting delayed on the runway. Or so it initially seems.

With each revolution of the wheels as they approach the airstrip, it feels as though you’re inching closer and closer to your desired destination, only to be disappointed by what happens next: the wheels stop their revolutions, the captain’s voice echoes through the plane’s speakers, and the massive carrier comes to a halt. At a moment’s notice, things go from moving right along to being stuck at a standstill, and suddenly, you’re left alone with idle time. A buzzkill during your trip, for certain.

We experienced these traveling woes today at the start of our journey to Raleigh, North Carolina. Just as we were about to take off from LaGuardia Airport, some runway traffic caused our flight’s captain to announce a delay that would have us at a standstill for an indefinite amount of time. So, we and the rest of our packed Delta flight initially sat in frustrated anticipation of our impending take-off.

At first, it seemed like the worst thing that could happen; moments of stagnancy in a stuffy airplane, a delay in the schedule, a change to the itinerary. What could be worse for fast-moving, New York City-dwelling, student-athlete-millennials like us? Probably only dead cellphones and places without Wi-Fi access.

After the first impatient five minutes passed, however, the idle time was actually pretty nice. It not only allowed me to watch the sun descend upon the ground while other planes ascended into the sky, but also to have some unadulterated time alone with my thoughts, with just the soothing sounds of my iPod filling my ears.

I thought about who our team had been for the past 16 games, who we are today, and most important, who we would be in May. It was refreshing to have some quiet time to think during our travels, instead of constantly moving toward the next destination.

Some forty-five minutes later, we finally made it into the sky and resumed our trip to N.C. State. Once we got into the air, I realized that today’s delay on the runway was reminiscent of our lives over the past 12 days.

During the first four weeks of the season, it felt as though we could barely come up for air. It seemed like we would return to Fordham from softball-filled weekends and merely blink our eyes and it would be Thursday, our travel day, yet again. A crazy life even for those of us who are used to the crazy life that comes with the college softball season.

But, for the past 12 days since our big win against Minnesota in Orlando, our crazy lives were toned down a bit. A weekend without games and some days off granted by our coaches afforded us the chance to rest our bodies and minds, and refuel for our tough weekend ahead at N.C. State.

Similar to my experience on the runway today, some time off amid our on-the-go routine gave us a chance to just “be,” instead of living to constantly “do.”

And like our situation on the runway today, the static time off was frustrating at first, seemingly unnecessary even. It appeared to simply be a break in the momentum that had us rolling right along toward our destination. Why stop the plane’s wheels from revolving once they started moving toward the runway?

But, after 12 days of limited softball-related stress, numerous chances to break down swing mechanics, and a ton of time to reflect and think, I realized that our hiatus was much needed, and may even prove to be a great thing for us going forward.

So, while a delay on a runway or during the college softball season doesn’t usually appear to be ideal initially, I realized today that it could be just what we needed to slow things down and revitalize us for the next leg of the journey.

And plus, as long as the desired destination is eventually reached, the frustrations created by the delay are almost always forgotten and the journey is remembered as an overall success.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 7 / Turning Letdowns into Lessons

Thursday, February 26, 2015 – Citrus Classic / Orlando, Florida

The seniors (minus Serena), after our big upset of #13/11 Minnesota at the Citrus Classic.

The seniors (minus Serena), after our big upset victory over #13/11 Minnesota at the Citrus Classic.

Over the course of a long and taxing season, letdowns are inevitable. A sudden switch in momentum, an instant of complacency, or a momentary lapse in judgment, and things can suddenly go from hunky-dory to dire, and fast.

In a quick-moving game like college softball, in which you blink your eyes and it’s the fifth inning, transient letdowns can often determine the outcomes of games, especially if you fall on your heels and expect victory to happen just by showing up.

Last Saturday in South Carolina, that’s just what happened to us. Over the course of our game against Gardner-Webb, the David to our Goliath, letdown crept up and quickly turned those seven-innings into our most frustrating loss of the season, and later, a week of reflection.

And lengthy our week was; we collectively dealt with cringing could-haves, regretful should-haves, and long conversations with parents, teammates, and coaches alike about what went wrong and how we went from flying high on a five-game winning streak to questioning our team’s ability, in just two hours of bad softball. On top of it all, we had to wait six days to play again, so the bitter taste and painful vestiges of defeat lingered for much longer than we would have liked.

Amid the animated conversations, prognostications about the remainder of our season, and awkward questions from outsiders about how we could possibly lose to a far-inferior team, however, the week-long reflection allowed me to realize that this loss could very well be a blessing in disguise for us; a reminder that in-between the white lines, nothing is guaranteed and no one is invincible, no matter who the opponent is and what the rankings say. While the naysayers may think differently, our loss to Gardner-Webb could be just the kick in the behind we need to ignite our fire going forward, for this weekend in Orlando and in upcoming Atlantic 10 contests in March and April.

Ironically, the tides will turn for us this weekend, and we will become a Gardner-Webb-like team, as we face our toughest competition of the season at the Citrus Classic. While facing two ranked teams in Georgia and Minnesota, and also playing other formidable opponents during our second stay in Florida this season, it is important for us to remember the lesson we learned from our game with Gardner-Webb: Every team is susceptible to letdowns, no matter how good they look on paper. After all, this is a game played by humans, flawed ones, in fact. And like the example Goliath set forth, no one is invincible.

So, once the first pitch is thrown tomorrow in the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, our slate from last weekend will finally be cleaned and we will have the chance to be another team’s source of letdown; the David to someone else’s Goliath.

No matter what happens this weekend, though, I know that the Gardner-Webb loss will pay long-term dividends for us, even if they aren’t visible immediately. And like we’ve experienced several times before, we can right the wrongs of our past losses simply by turning our letdowns into lessons for the future and attacking our opponents like David did, regardless of being the underdog or not.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 6 / Adjusting to the Cold like the Curve

Thursday, February 19, 2015 – Furman University / Greenville, South Carolina

Our outfielders got a little wet while diving at practice in South Carolina.

Our outfielders got a little wet while diving at practice in South Carolina.

Greenville, South Carolina: Friday, high of 34; low of 10.

The weather application on my iPhone has read these daunting figures for the past five days that I’ve been persistently checking it. Since returning to New York from Florida on Sunday night, I’ve wholeheartedly believed that these numbers on my phone, with imaginary icicles attached to them, were simply mistakes. They must be. Just basic human fallacies put on full display for the Apple community to view; simple errors on the parts of the imperfect weather reporters who must have accidentally conveyed the upcoming weather for Maine, or even Alaska, but definitely not Greenville, South Carolina, where we are headed to play softball this weekend. No shot.

For five days, however, these numbers haven’t budged. On Monday, the high for Friday in Greenville was 34, and on Thursday night, 34 it remains. So, unless some divine miracle brings an unforeseen heatwave to the Eastern seaboard within the next 12 hours, this is our bitter reality. And bitter it will almost certainly be.

But, like adjusting to a pitch or an unfamiliar infield surface, the cold weather is just another variable in a game filled with uncertainty. An added curveball, if you will.

In playing this game at the highest collegiate level, however, we have been seasoned to adapt and adjust constantly. This is a game through which we have learned that frequent adjustments are imperative for success to ensue. A game that has required us to take on chameleon-like personae in order to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances within a seven-inning affair, and on a larger scale, a 60-game season.

So, with our compression shirts, hand warmers, and maroon winter jackets in tow, we are as prepared as we can possibly be for the battles that lie ahead at Furman University; even if these battles involve two adversaries at once: our opponent and the unrelenting cold.

This weekend, softball will provide an even greater test of the mind, body, and will than it usually does for us. One likely to involve some stinging hands, chapped lips, and maybe even a few broken bats. But, one that will make us better in ways that are unknown at the moment.

Perhaps, it will make us more battle-tested for the cold, Bronx match-ups ahead in late-March and early-April. Or maybe, it will give us something to pull from the memory bank to provide us with strength when games get long and tough in the future. Or maybe, it will just be a good story to tell. Vis-à-vis a ‘we-walked-nine-miles-barefoot-in-the-snow’ type. But rather, ours will be a ‘we-played-a-warm-weather-sport-in-below-freezing-temperatures’ tale. Something along those lines.

Regardless of what the lesson to be learned this weekend is, something tells me that winning will make 34 feel like 64 pretty quickly, especially on this team.

So, let’s brave the elements and play some ball. And no, I don’t mean snowball.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 5 / Playing the Game Like Prisoners Set Free

Thursday, February 12, 2015 – University of South Florida / Tampa, Florida

We enjoyed some beautiful weather and scenery on the campus of USF.

We enjoyed some beautiful weather and scenery on the campus of USF.

It’s funny where writing inspiration comes from sometimes. For me, it’s usually through circumstances and conversations, even transitory thoughts or words that unintentionally pop into my mind. Today, it came from the back of a leather airplane seat. A most unlikely place.

For the 40 minutes of idle time during which we were stuck on the runway at LaGuardia Airport aboard our mid-afternoon JetBlue flight, I casually flip-flopped between small talk with those around me and the calming escape of my headphones, in order to ease my anxious anticipation of our impending takeoff. Just before our plane’s wheels circled towards the sky, the familiar sight of a ball field on the small, soundless television screen in front of me naturally caught my eye. Intrigued, my headphones immediately shifted from the inside of my primordial iPod into the armrest connecting me to the previously silenced words from the moving mouths on the screen.

In a matter of minutes, an impressive New York Times Op-Docs video piece took me through the story of the San Quentin Giants – a baseball team unlike any of the ones I had previously been familiar with. It featured prisoners who were afforded the opportunity to play baseball despite their incarceration at the San Quentin Bay Prison in San Francisco. Baseball not only gave these men a physical outlet away from their prison cells, but it also provided them with a mental escape from the confines of their pasts, as well as a way to learn about themselves and cope with their current realities.

I gained a great amount of perspective from watching the Times’ moving seven-minute feature, and of course, thought about how I could apply the San Quentin Giants’ story to ours.

What stuck with me most after viewing the video piece were the prisoners’ beautiful descriptions about how baseball made them feel. One man called the game “a relief.” Another said, “When I am on that field, I am not locked up.”

During a week in which it felt like we were just going through the motions, at practice and otherwise, as we were similarly (though not nearly as drastically) confined to the four walls of the Lombardi Center, these were just the words I needed to hear to be reminded about what a tremendous blessing it is to play this great game every day.

Perhaps things felt differently this week due to a combination of tiredness from school and practice, and the letdown from returning indoors after playing in beautiful Arizona weather. Whatever it might have been, I believe the reality of the 55-game grind ahead hit us collectively, whether consciously or subconsciously, and caused our week to drag a bit.

Oftentimes, the hectic lifestyle of the Division I student-athlete experience causes the actual games themselves to get lumped in with the sometimes stressful undertakings leading up to competition. As a result, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling overwrought while playing; haunted by looming statistics and a fear of failure.

It is vital for us to remember, this weekend and always, that the practicing, lifting, and long days of classes that turn into late nights of homework are the hard parts of the experience. The games, however, are supposed to be fun; the times when our hard work and God-given abilities are demonstrated. The times when we should experience feelings of relief like the San Quentin Giants did. The times when we should relinquish the stifling grips our minds often have over our bodies, which hinder our physical performances. It’s time for us to play like prisoners set free.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 4 / Familiar Feelings and Anything But

Thursday, February 5, 2015 – Kajikawa Classic / Tempe, Arizona

Familiarity. It’s what gives one ease about the unknowns that are to come. Familiar faces, experiences, routines, and feelings. All combined, they create an ineffable sense of security in a life, and a sport like softball, that is full of uncertainties.

A sea of clean, white sneakers on the bus to JFK airport, en route to our first tournament of 2015 in Arizona.

A sea of clean, white sneakers on the bus to JFK airport, en route to our first tournament of 2015 in Arizona.

The familiarity of this past day spent sorting through freshly cleaned laundry, packing duffle bags, double-checking lists while boarding a bus en route to JFK airport; Paige in the seat to my right, Michele in front, Serena across the aisle from her. All so familiar. Words about these seating arrangements haven’t been spoken since our first bus ride together three years ago. They are just known to us like the uniforms we wear in games and the cheers we sing from dugouts.

With buds in my ears and a glowing computer screen staring back at me while I am suspended in midair, this night spent on a crowded airplane is also familiar. So familiar, in fact, that in some ways it feels like the season isn’t beginning because it never even stopped. Like we never will stop. Like this is what we have done each week in the past and will continue to do in weeks to come.

In the midst of all this familiarity, however, are feelings I’ve never experienced before. The feeling of knowing that this is the last time for white travel shoes and the claiming of bus seats and the anticipation of the 60 games that are to come. The feeling of knowing that we have the opportunity to leave an unparalleled legacy at Fordham with our third-consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament. The feeling of knowing that I’m more prepared for this season than any of the previous 15 I have endured. These feelings are new, uncomfortable even, but more than anything, exciting.

I promised my dad during winter break that I wouldn’t write this year to foster my nostalgia and cryptic musings about the end of my softball career, but simply to create something long-lasting and document the amazing journey that is to come, regardless of what happens between this first week of February and the end of May.

Serena, Michele, and me at the airport before the start of our last season together.

Serena, Michele, and me at the airport before the start of our last season together.

I’m going to abide by my word, and I’m not going to make this a farewell tour or a weekly requiem for the end of my playing days, but rather a digital scrapbook of words, videos, and pictures to celebrate the journey I’m blessed to experience and the great game I’m fortunate to play.

While I’ll certainly find solace in the familiars I encounter in my fourth and final college softball season, I’m most excited for the unfamiliars that are surely ahead in the upcoming months. And even more than last season, I want to capture and make sense of it all so that none of my now-familiars become fleeting in the future.

As I learned last year, I know that all journeys have their peaks and valleys. I don’t expect this one to be the exception. What I also know, however, is that we are on the verge of doing something extremely special this year. Call me cliché, but I can just feel it.

We have a long way to go before our destiny is discovered, so right now, my sites are solely set on the five games on tap for this weekend at Arizona State. I can’t wait for the feeling of new cleats on top of freshly raked dirt. For old uniforms that feel new again. For unfamiliar surroundings with familiar people. For our softball family to be together again. For our hard work to be put to the test. For the start of the journey we’ve been preparing for since last May. I’m ready for the familiar and unfamiliar to collide this season and enable me to write the final chapter of a story that has been 15 years in the making. I’m ready to make this the best one yet.

The Roller Coaster Ride of a Lifetime

Monday, May 19, 2014 – NCAA Tournament / Tallahassee, FL

Our last team picture as the 2014 Fordham Rams.

The 2014 Fordham Rams, for the last time.

The song seemed appropriate. OneRepublic’s “Good Life” filled the speakers at Florida State’s JoAnne Graf Field as we convened for one last team picture. We had just ended our season with a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to South Carolina in the NCAA Regionals. The loss was a bitter pill to swallow, but OneRepublic’s lyrics eased the immediate pain and provided an amazingly fitting ending to our final moments in uniform together:

Hopelessly, I feel like there might be something that I’ll miss.

Hopelessly, I feel like the window closes oh so quick.

Hopelessly, I’m taking a mental picture of you now.

‘Cause hopelessly, the hope is we have so much to feel good about.”

That last line was particularly pertinent for the moment. After capturing our second straight Atlantic 10 Championship and finishing with a 36-20 record, as well as all of the other individual and collective accomplishments we garnered throughout the season, we do, in fact, have so much to feel good about.

Michele Smith and me chatting after our first game at Regionals against Florida State.

ESPN commentator and Olympic gold medalist Michele Smith chatting with me after our first game at Regionals against Florida State.

For fifteen weeks, I have documented many of the highs and lows of the 2014 Fordham Softball season. During this fifteen-week process, I have learned more about myself, my teammates, and the nature of this amazing sport than in any other season in my fifteen-year softball career. In these fifteen short weeks, our myriad successes and failures comprised the story that will be forever etched in both the history of our program and the history of our lives.

As a particularly sentimental person, now is the time when my nostalgia is at an all-time high. Just as I will miss our four seniors (Tina, Bri, Gabby, and Elise) and the tremendous journey we experienced together, I will also miss writing this blog. While capturing the so-called “chapters in-between” (the moments that shape the journey, but often go unnoticed and unappreciated), this blog has provided me with an outlet to experience clarity and understanding during some of the toughest times this season, as well as a way to truly appreciate the moments of greatness and joy.

After getting eliminated on Saturday night by South Carolina, I talked with Sydney, my roommate during Regionals, in our hotel room before falling asleep. We reminisced and recapped various moments from our season and compared it to a roller coaster ride; not in the traditional sense, however, in which roller coasters are often used as metaphors with negative connotations.

My Dad and me at Regionals. He made the trip down to Tallahassee to support his Rams.

My Dad and me at Regionals. He made the trip down to Tallahassee to support his Rams.

We determined that our 2014 softball season was the roller coaster ride of a lifetime. Sure, there were moments of anxiety and doubt while we were ascending up the tracks, along with moments of fear after the initial drop-off, during which we felt like we might fall out or become sick. But, after we got some momentum and stopped white-knuckling the safety bar in front of us, the rest of the ride was thrilling, and even joyous. Ultimately, this roller coaster ride left the people who had experienced it wanting to hop back on line and ride it again.

For thrill-seekers, like me, there is nothing more enjoyable than a good roller coaster ride.

As I say goodbye to yet another season in my softball career and begin preparing for my final go-around next year, I find solace in the words of Ernest Hemingway:

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

And what a journey it was. Thanks to everyone who came along for the ride!

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.

Lifting the Anchor for the Final Leg of the Journey

Monday, May 5, 2014 – University of Dayton / Dayton, OH

Team picture at the annual Block F student-athlete banquet before we left for the Dayton series.

Team picture at the annual Block F student-athlete banquet before we left for the Dayton series. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

For the first time in four weeks, we Rams lost a softball game. Two games, in fact. One 5am departure from campus and a connecting flight later, we arrived in Dayton, Ohio on Friday to play our final series of the regular season. Dayton had everything to play for; not only was it their senior day, but it was also their last opportunity to make the Atlantic 10 tournament. They were a bubble team who needed to at least split with us in order to book their trip to the Bronx. We, on the other hand, were playing simply for pride, as we had already wrapped up the number one seed in the tournament with our sweep of La Salle the weekend before.

From the early goings of game one on Saturday against Dayton, we knew we were in for a dogfight. They hopped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning before going up 5-1 on us by the third. Each inning thereafter, we chipped away at their lead. Elise finally tied the score at five with a two-run bomb in the sixth inning.

Heading to the eighth, with the score still tied at five, we erupted for four runs and a collective feeling that we had sealed the win. Dayton had other feelings, however, as they answered right back with four runs of their own, forcing the game to continue. Their unthinkable comeback took the wind right out of our sails, as it took everything we had to battle back and finally take the lead, before the ultimate feeling of deflation took effect. Dayton eventually walked off on us in the tenth inning to cap a crazy three-hour game.

The second game, which occurred just 20 minutes after our disappointing loss in game one, was a complete blur for nearly everyone on our sideline. Upon discussion later that night at the airport, we came to the conclusion that we lost the second game in the eighth inning of the first when we relinquished our four-run lead. Our 15-game winning streak had ended, and we were forced to swallow the bitter pill of defeat for the first time in four weeks; a taste we had nearly forgotten.

Me with Michele, our stud pitcher and one of my very best friends, at the Block F banquet. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

Me with Michele, our stud pitcher and one of my very best friends, at the Block F banquet.

With the loss also came the end of my own personal ribbon-wearing streak. Since our game at Lehigh at the beginning of April, in which we came from behind and won in the final inning, I have been wearing the same red ribbon with blue anchors in my hair for each game we have played. One of our super freshmen and center fielder Sydney gave our team the ribbon to wear that day. Her message behind giving us the anchor ribbon was to use its symbol of hope as a reminder to keep the focus on our goals and prevent us from drifting. She also used it as a metaphor for what it means to be a teammate. The anchor represents the stability and strength that we have in each other.

I loved that. So much, in fact, that I vowed to wear the ribbon until we lost again.

As we set off on our final voyage of the season, we are ready to lift the anchor and embark on what will certainly be our most trying journey yet. Along with the anchor, our hopes are also rising with the possibilities that this upcoming week will bring. It is championship week; the time we have been preparing for since August. Our shortcomings at Dayton, along with the myriad other experiences of our season, will serve as preparation for the rough waters ahead of us in the A10 tournament and hopefully beyond.

The lifting of the anchor has us steadfast in our pursuit of the destination: an Atlantic 10 championship. We are hopeful and excited for what is ahead, and ready to embark on our final journey with an unparalleled zeal and determination. Our ship is built on the stability and strength we have in each other, and I am confident that there is not a stronger or better-prepared ship than ours in the A10 to take on the upcoming storms on the sea.