The SRU softball team started their season at the Blue Bridge Battle tournament in Kentucky, where the team played four non-conference teams and went 0-4 in the weekend. The weekend series consisted of Division II teams from around the country.
Although the season is off to a rocky start, head coach Stacey Rice said that she was grateful for the outdoor practice and opportunity to travel after all of the limitations due to COVID-19 that kept them from playing last year.
According to Rice, the Blue Bridge Battle tournament was the first time the team had gotten out of the gym this year. The unpredictable weather in north western Pennsylvania gives limited opportunity to get their cleats in the dirt.
Rice said she’s thankful for the opportunities the team does get to practice, even if it’s a game. She said that there has to be an understanding and that these games are supposed to prepare the team for conference appearances.
Bouncing back from the COVID-19 season last year, which was nearly non-existent, many of the players are first- and second-year students who are new to SRU. Rice described coaching the young team this year as refreshing.
“We have these young kids coming in with a point to prove,” Rice said. “They want to be here.
“They are working really hard.”
Rice said that the talent of the freshmen and sophomores drives the upperclassmen and, as a coach, it is exciting to watch the competition between positions. Aside from the growing pains of a young team, Rice explained that the players share the common goal of wanting to succeed.
“This team is special,” Rice said. “I am most proud of their character.
“They all want the same thing and they are willing to put their differences aside.”
To ensure play-time, the team has two other trips planned for this season: Florida for spring break and West Virginia the weekend before. This time last year, the team was not allowed to leave the state because of COVID-19, but it seems they may be able to leave the masks at home this year.
The annual trip to Florida may be during spring break, but it will not be a relaxing getaway for the team. Rock’s softball team will be working hard: playing a total of 12 games over seven days. Most of these games are regional opponents and all of them will count toward the overall record this season. The tournament is highly competitive and demanding, as the players only have one day to rest and recover over the span of the week and will primarily play doubleheaders.
Rice expressed that the goal for the Florida tournament is learning how to work together as a unit and working out the kinks. The goal for this season, though, is the same as any other year.
“We have to not just be better than we were last year, but we have to reach that goal of the postseason,” Rice said. “That is always our expectation [and] that is always our goal.”
This weekend, the team will be traveling to Glenville, West Virginia, for a two-day non-conference series. Rock softball will compete in four games against Glenville State University.
The start to SRU’s conference season will be at home against Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania on Friday, March 25 at 2 p.m.