Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Softball team sliding through a season of improvement

The softball team is nearing the end of the regular season after playing Wheaton College twice on April 27. After winning both games against Wheaton, the team’s record sits at 21-11 and 9-3 in conference games. Though there are still six games left, the team is on pace to have a better record than last season, which was 22-20. Junior Kennedy Williams is one player who looks back and is proud of the team’s growth.

“My freshman year, we ranked eighth in the conference,” Williams said. “To go from eighth to third to second in the span of three years is pretty awesome.”

Coming into the season, the team was picked to be tied for seventh in a conference preseason poll done by the coaches. That was an improvement from the year before, where the team was projected last in the conference in the preseason but finished tied for third. 

“After last season, we had pretty high expectations for ourselves,” Williams said. “We were preseason ranked eighth last season, and we wound up going into the semifinals of our conference tournament. It showed a lot of not only perseverance and hard work that has paid off from last season, but we also brought that energy and expectation into this season.”

A massive reason for those expectations is that the team returned many players from the last season. Because of this, teammates were already familiar with each other and could improve further on their play. Senior Jennica Soliz said she knows the number of returning players helps their play become more consistent despite the coaching change.

“We kind of were on the edge a little bit after last season and then coming into this year with a new coach,” Soliz said. “We had a little bit more consistency this season because we have the same players on the field as last year.” 

After the Vikings started 8-6, they then split a conference series 1-1 against Millikin University. Though it may not seem significant, it was the team’s first win over Millikin since 2019. Senior Nadia Ranieri is one player who understands how that moment fits into the bigger picture. 

“That was the first time we’ve beaten Millikin since I’ve been here, so that felt really good,” Ranieri said. “It also puts into perspective how good we can be compared to the rest of the conference. It gave us the reality that we could go farther than last year and that this is going to be the team to do it.”

That win was just one of the marks that showed improvement for this group. Last season, the team started off 2-4 in conference games, but this season, the Vikings got off to a 4-2 start. 

Though many things stayed the same because of the large group of returning players from last year, the mindset was one thing that didn’t stay the same. The change in mindset can be attributed to the change in the coaching staff and the new philosophy they have brought in for the players. 

“The main difference is positivity,” Ranieri said. “We had expectations last year where if you hit a home run, that was supposed to be expected, and if you did something well, do it again. But this year, we high-five everything. Stretches, warm-ups and even if you make an error, it gets followed up by high-fives.”

The Vikings hope to finish the season strong so they can earn a top seed in the conference tournament, which takes place May 9-11. Winning the conference tournament would mean a lot for this team and would show the team’s hard work off to the rest of the CCIW conference. Junior Anna Maciejewski said that the team has what it takes to win the conference. 

“Being conference champions has been one of our goals since day one, and we want to take on that regional championship as well, so we’re on the right path,” Maciejewski said.

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