espnW: NCAA Softball

Winning on guts, grit and faith

May, 27, 2014
FSU Super Regional FSU AthleticsCourtney Senas delivered the big shot, a walk-off home run with two outs in the seventh inning of the deciding game. Then, bedlam.

WOW! We made it, and we have officially arrived in Oklahoma City, but it was a tough road to get here. I think it has finally hit me that all of our hard work has paid off, and through all of the sweat, pressure situations and unforgettable moments we have reached yet another goal.

Looking back on all of the feats that we have accomplished together, I think of how important every individual in this program is, and how each one of us has an impact on the game at different moments. Alex Kossoff came up in a huge moment during regionals and shined at the right time, and there were so many of my teammates that shined this past weekend against Michigan.

I picture the huge moments with bases loaded and two outs where Briana Hamilton snatched screaming line drives out of the air to save multiple runs. I think of the four home runs hit in the second game of the series, when our backs were against the wall, only one loss away from elimination. I think of our coaches who made us believe in the process of winning and playing the game one pitch at a time instead of thinking of the outcome.

I think of our first game, where nothing was going in our favor, and we suffered a 17-3 loss, bigger than anyone had before in a super regional game. I think of Courtney Senas’ walk-off home run that sent us to Oklahoma City. But most of all, I think of the guts, grit and faith that we all played with after being defeated so badly in Game 1.

We could have laid down and said, “It’s over, we can’t come back from this.’’ We could have been happy with how far we had come and thought they are just better than us. We could have, but we didn’t believe any of that, and we knew we weren’t finished yet.

We knew it would take 14 innings of fight, and I distinctly remember a text message that Coach Alameda sent me Thursday night. “You have to come out tomorrow on a mission, Lacey. This is totally doable,” she said, and she went on to tell me to look in the mirror and see what she saw within me. She believed in me and everything I had worked for. There were so many people who expressed their belief in what our team could do, and together we went on a mission to win two games and go to the World Series.

When Courtney hit that ball with two outs in the seventh inning of the decisive game, we all knew it was gone, and we all yelled and jumped and ran to the plate with pure joy. It is a moment that will be engrained in our minds forever, and it couldn’t have happened to a more hardworking, godly and gracious person.

Courtney puts in extra hours in the cages every night and puts her heart and soul into this game for every pitch. She prayed during the at-bat, and many of us prayed for her in that moment. When you have faith there are so many things you can accomplish, and through our faith in each other and in God we have achieved one of our ultimate goals.

Time to finish what we started

May, 27, 2014
Oregon Super Regionals Nate Barrett/Oregon AthleticsOregon swept Minnesota over the weekend to become one of the eight teams to advance to the WCWS.

After winning super regionals and knowing we get to take off for Oklahoma City, everyone is on their toes. Everyone can feel it: This year is different for Oregon softball.

My freshman year we beat Texas to go to the Women’s College World Series. The entire year we had repeated to ourselves, “Only eight teams make it,” so when we got to the WCWS, it was like we had accomplished our goal.

Last year we knew we wanted to be at the WCWS again and we wanted to compete for a national title. But we overlooked what was right in front of us and never got the chance.

This year we took it one pitch at a time and focused on the task at hand. The entire year our goal has been “Mission 8.1,” which is to be one of the eight teams at the WCWS and then the last team standing. Only one team gets to end this tournament with a win.

Every week we have a meeting with our sports psychologist, Dr. David Mikula. We talk about issues or things that are happening with our team that we need to address. For example, we talked about being ranked No. 1 in the country when the polls came out. It was the first time in school history that we were the No. 1 team, and we wanted to talk about how that affected us mentally. He has helped us with countless situations, and when the postseason started he asked the returning players to talk about the difference between this year and last.

Older girls on the team tried to explain it, but every person ended with, “I don’t know, I just can’t explain it, but it’s different this year.” This year is special. A lot of teams say that, but we have the team chemistry and talent to pull this thing out. The only team that can beat us is ourselves.

One of the most challenging parts of life in general right now is school. All of us are so excited about what we’re doing on the field that it’s been extremely difficult to focus on school. But that is why we’re here and playing for a university! Most schools are already out for the summer, but because we are on quarter system, finals are coming up. Luckily our academic adviser is an immense help and is going to join us on the road this week and make sure we get all of our school work taken care of.

Last weekend against Minnesota our fans were awesome once again. Home-field advantage is an understatement for us at Howe Field. This year Eugene has had our backs through every up and down.

I will never forget Sunday afternoon. In the bottom of the seventh inning, just one out away from clinching our trip to the WCWS, the crowd started chanting, “O-K-C! O-K-C!” I remember looking down at the grass and I couldn’t help but smile, and I just listened and took in that moment.

It’s surprising we are the only Pac-12 school making the trip to OKC this year. However, upsets happen. That doesn’t mean the Pac-12 was overrated. It’s just the way the cards fell this year. I still believe the Pac-12 is one of the most challenging softball conferences in the country, and it always will be. There are some amazing players and amazing teams in this league. We hope to represent the Pac-12 in the way we carry ourselves and the amount of pride we play with.

Every week we talk about how the road to Oklahoma City starts here in Eugene. Well, we made it! Now it’s time to finish what we started. I have no doubt the girls to the left and to the right of me have the potential to help our team to the final three-game series in OKC.

We’re more than ready

May, 24, 2014
HaywardCourtesy Washington AthleticsVictoria Hayward and the rest of the Huskies got acclimated to Gator nation as the prepped to take on Florida in Gainesville on Saturday.

Hi everyone!

The postseason is in full swing and I hope that each and every one of you is enjoying the MAYhem as much as I am! After sweeping our Seattle regional with wins against Iona, Brigham Young University and Northwestern, we became the first team to punch our ticket to the round of 16, known to the softball world as super regionals!

Having finished our regional on Saturday afternoon, our team had the luxury of watching every other regional unfold from the comfort of our living rooms. I kid you not; from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday my day consisted of softball, softball and more softball! Put simply, it was awesome because nothing is more exciting than watching teams fight for survival in the postseason!

After the Gainesville regional champion was crowned, the bracket was set and we were headed across the country for a best of three series against the University of Florida. We packed our bags and headed to Gator country early Wednesday morning. Two days later, we have conquered the heat and humidity and are more than ready to step out onto the field this Saturday.

To many teams, playing on the road is a heavy disadvantage, but it is nothing new for the Washington Huskies. This season we have played almost every single game on the road, with a mere 13 games at Husky Stadium (including last weekend’s regional). Not only is playing on the road something we are used to but for our senior class, this is the third time in four years we have been shipped off to a Southeastern Conference (SEC) foe’s house for a super regional. But hey, nothing beats a PAC-12 vs. SEC match up, right?

Throughout my career as a Washington Husky, we’ve always been the “underdog”. If I’ve learned one thing over these last four years it is this: the game doesn’t know who is supposed to win. This weekend my teammates and I have an opportunity to compete together and fight for a trip back to the Women’s College World Series. We’re more than ready and you will not want to miss it. Catch all the action on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPNU and Sunday at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN!

Go Dawgs!

Excited to play another weekend

May, 22, 2014
Madison Shipman, Ellen RenfroeAndrew Bruckse/Tennessee AthleticsAfter beating Lipscomb on Sunday, Tennessee will now face Oklahoma in super regionals - a rematch of last year's national championship.

Hey y’all!! So the Lady Vols have survived to play another weekend. I wish winning regionals were as easy as checking it off a list, but it wouldn’t be the NCAA tournament if it were.

After facing Charleston Southern and Virginia Tech, we played Lipscomb University for the regional championship game. Each game and every inning of that weekend was a battle. We could not take any team lightly. After a tight game and a 2-0 victory over Lipscomb, we were able to celebrate making it to the next round, which is super regionals.

Over the last week, we seniors have experienced some exciting, yet sad moments. We played our last game and had our last practice at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in Knoxville. There have been so many memorable moments at that place, from good to bad, that we have shared with our teammates, friends, coaches, family and our awesome fans. It has been an unforgettable four years! I would like to thank everyone who has supported us and been a part of our journey to where we are today.

We have arrived in Norman, Oklahoma, after a long day of traveling on Wednesday. We are so excited just to be playing another weekend. Many of you are probably wondering about the rematch of the national championship game from last year. Yes, it was an exciting one, but we are different teams this year.

The Lady Vols are staying focused on what we do best and enjoying the ride. We are going to give our all for Tennessee when we step on the field on Friday night. For now, we are enjoying some free time. We are going to do some team bonding by seeing a movie together, going to dinner and practicing a little later.

Thank you all for reading, and as always, GO VOLS!

One pitch, one game at a time

May, 22, 2014
UCLA HugCourtesy Katie MeyersUCLA beat Notre Dame 1-0 Sunday, stopping the Irish with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.

This season has been an amazing one so far. On Mother’s Day, we had the selection show and everyone found out who they would be matching up with for the start of postseason. We got the privilege of hosting regionals this year and what an awesome feeling that was. We were able to continue to play in front of our family, friends and loyal fans for another weekend. We hosted Notre Dame, Long Beach State and Southern Utah for our Los Angeles Regional, and it was an exciting battle all the way to the end.

Our first game was against Southern Utah, and we defeated them 8-0. Next, we played Notre Dame and won 7-0. The following day was a tough battle for seven innings as the Fighting Irish held us to only one run. But through all seven innings, our defense was outstanding and came up with a lot of big plays to hold the Irish from scoring.

Our sophomore pitcher, Paige McDuffee, led us in the circle during the most crucial time in the game. She came in for me with one out in the fifth inning and shut out Notre Dame the rest of the way. In the seventh inning, we hoped to put a few more runs on the board, but unfortunately we left a few runners on base and we were headed to the bottom of the seventh leading 1-0 with the Irish getting their last ups.

As the inning progressed, Notre Dame loaded the bases and continued to fight for its chance to play us in another game. As the craziness continued, Paige kept great composure and confidence on the mound. At this time, I was playing first base and I remember telling myself there was no option of losing.

There were two outs, bases loaded, and Paige threw her wicked backdoor curve ball. The batter hit a dribbler to Gracie Goulder, our second baseman. As Gracie always does, she fielded it cleanly and threw it to me at first for the final out of the game! It was an exciting moment and I couldn't be more proud of Paige in the circle, as well as my entire team keeping our fight all the way until the last pitch.

The Bruins are moving on to super regionals and plan on taking it one pitch, one inning, one game at a time. We will host Kentucky in a two-of-three series starting Saturday.

Go Bruins!

It's all about the game that day

May, 21, 2014
Oregon regionalsEric Evans/Oregon AthleticsOregon dispatched Utah Valley and Wisconsin in regionals and now hosts Minnesota in super regionals.

As a junior with the Ducks, I’ve been lucky enough to go to the postseason each year of my career at Oregon. Each year we’ve had a watch party on Selection Sunday. Each year we’ve found out which seed we were, and each year we’d look over the brackets. But this year was different.

Some people may tell you it doesn’t matter which seed you are because it doesn’t mean you’ll be the last team standing at the Women’s College World Series. That is true. However, being selected as the No. 1 seed in all of college softball is an amazing feeling. When we saw our names pop up on the ESPNU Twitter feed, it was an explosion of screaming and hugs all over the place. This team is so special and we can feel that.

Our motto this year has been to enjoy success that day but get back to business the next. So where do you think we were less than 12 hours after the selection show? We were back in the weight room with our strength and conditioning coach at 6:30 a.m. Mark [Dillon] pushes us to be the strongest, fastest and most hard-working team out there, and although we wish we could catch a few more minutes of sleep sometimes, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hosting regionals and super regionals is a huge advantage because you get to sleep in your own bed, you don’t have to travel into the wee hours of the night and you’re at your own field! The last one is probably the most important for us this year. Our fans have been unreal. They start cheers on their own and they get loud when something good happens. When I made an error a few weeks ago against Arizona State, there were countless people encouraging me from the stands. “Keep your head up, Janie!” “You got this, 19!” That’s an amazing feeling.

After practicing all week, our excitement was about to burst out of us by Friday. We couldn’t wait to step onto the field and play Utah Valley. The thing about the postseason is it does not matter who the opponent is. You can’t take any team lightly. Because guess what? If you lose it doesn’t affect your ranking like the regular season, it affects whether or not your season continues. Upsets happen every year and we were not going to go easy on any team. You have to show up every day in postseason.

Utah Valley was our main focus at practice. Every week coach [Jimmy] Kolaitis writes the name of our next opponent on a white board that says, “The road to OKC starts with (blank).” This past week it said UVU. We don’t look ahead and we don’t think about who we’re going to play the next day. It’s all about the game that day and preparing for it. That mindset has really worked for us this year.

After getting through the first couple of games, we needed to shut the door against Wisconsin on Sunday. We struggled a little against them on Saturday but knew we needed to put them away on Sunday. Our game was delayed about 45 minutes because of rain and we were all goofing off in the dugout. We even zipped up one of our tiny little freshmen into eight parkas! She could barely walk but the crowd loved it. Howe Field is a family atmosphere and playing in front of those people is a huge honor. They come to watch and cheer, rain or shine. As soon as the first pitch finally happened, we turned it on and came out swinging against the Badgers.

Now that we’re through regionals and moving on to the next step, it gets a little more intense. My freshman year we upset Texas in the super regionals and moved on to the WCWS. I was just completely taken aback by how exciting the whole thing was. Beating Texas at its house is not easy to do and we were the underdogs.

Last year we weren’t the underdogs anymore. We were the No. 3 seed and people expected us to beat Nebraska. But Nebraska showed up that weekend and we didn’t. We were the team upset at our own house.

The lesson we learned from that experience is invaluable. It is everything we can do to tell the freshmen on our team how disappointing that weekend was. But we can’t dwell on it. This year is brand new. We have a completely different dynamic, and we all have so much love and support for each other.

Minnesota is a great team, but it wouldn’t matter who was in the visitors’ dugout. We just have to play Oregon softball and do what we do. Oh, and keep it real, as coach [Mike] White says.

We play for pressure moments

May, 20, 2014
FSUPhil KellyFlorida State survived two tough games against USF, winning 2-0 in 11 innings Saturday and 2-1 Sunday.

After such a thrilling weekend of softball it is hard to explain the emotions and excitement that go into each inning, each out and each pitch of the postseason. All week it felt as if the first game of our regional couldn’t come soon enough. Finally, Friday came along and we came out with excitement, beating Fordham 6-1, but we knew our next challenge against the USF Bulls on Saturday would be a tough one.

When you are playing to win or go home, the game changes. You play knowing that one pitch could change the game. Playing the game one pitch at a time takes on a special meaning when you’re in an 11-inning, zero-to-zero dogfight against a tough team with two standout USA national team players -- one of them being the pitcher. It is in these pressure situations that you learn who won’t give in. My teammates and I never budged or complained. We simply enjoyed the moment, playing in front of our home crowd for a chance to advance.

With a USF runner on third and no outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, onlookers probably thought the game was over, but we had other plans. Three pitches later our catcher, Celeste Gomez, picked off the potential winning runner at third. We came out of the inning unscathed and used that momentum to spark our offense.

You never know what the game has in store. You don’t know who you’ll have up when the game is on the line, and you trust that each person is ready to shine when her time comes. In the 11th inning with two outs and the bases loaded, the game chose our sophomore right fielder, Alex Kossoff. She performed in her moment with a single to left-center, scoring two runs, which gave us the win.

One win away from advancing to super regionals, we met the Bulls again on Sunday. USF opened the first inning with one run, but we answered with two of our own. It would stay that way with a few scares until we reached the seventh inning, with no outs and Bulls on first and second base.

It is moments like these that we play for. Pressure situations are what make the game a challenge. In this situation I knew I had to step up for my teammates, and as Coach Alameda came out to talk with us, we all took a deep breath together and locked in for the next three outs. Two strikeouts and a ground ball later, we won to advance to super regionals for the second year in a row.

Hugs and smiles are a common denominator when winning in the postseason, and there were plenty to go around, from the players to the coaches, staff and fans.

You play for those special moments, the pressure situations and the memories you will never forget. We play for others who can’t and for the chance to achieve a childhood dream. On Thursday, we’ll play for the chance to get one step closer to OKC.

We are on a mission in postseason

May, 16, 2014
Ellen RenfroeDonald Page/Tennessee AthleticsTennessee is hosting regionals and opens Friday night with Charleston Southern.

Postseason is just about to begin, and the Lady Vols are more excited than ever. After losing such a fantastic senior class last year, we feel as if we have something to prove to ourselves and to the world.

We are on a mission to show everyone what Tennessee softball is about, and that we are still great. Plus, who says being young is a bad thing? Maybe it just means we have fresher and younger bodies on the field! In all seriousness, though, we are all more than ready to start our run to the Women’s College World Series.

As we begin regionals this weekend, we realize we must not look past any team we play. A couple of the teams coming in are making their first appearance in the NCAA tournament and will bring a lot of intensity with them. This means we must match and exceed that excitement.

I do not think that will be a problem for this group of girls. We all love playing with one another, and we want to do whatever it takes to keep playing together this season. We bring our best each and every day, whether that is at practice, in the weight room, or during games.

As a side note, on Tuesday many of us spent some much needed time at the pool for a few hours after a long practice. Even though the rain sent us home a little earlier than we would have liked, it was nice to enjoy time by the pool. I know I could definitely use some sun to help get rid of some pretty bad tan lines. I might be past the point of fixing those, though, but it is all worth it!

Until next week, GO VOLS!

Gearing up for the postseason

May, 16, 2014
Ally CardaDon Liebig/ASUCLAUCLA hosts regionals and opens Friday night with Southern Utah.

Hello everyone! This is my first blog of the season and I am so thankful I have been given this opportunity to share what goes on at Easton Stadium with our Bruins. My name is Ally Carda, and I am a pitcher/utility player in my junior year. This season has sure been an exciting one so far and we aren't done yet.

This past weekend, we just finished up our last Pac-12 series against Arizona State in Tempe, and it was a battle every day. On Day 1, we lost in a close game 2-0. Afterward we talked with our coaches about what we could have done better, yet still focused on all the little things we did well as a team. I believe focusing on the positives has been a huge part of why we have been successful and why we can bounce back quickly after a loss.

Day 2 of the series was an intense battle in extra innings and we came out on top 9-5. On the last day, we continued to make adjustments and ended up winning 9-2. It was a great weekend of ball against the always tough Sun Devils.

As we finished up Pac-12 play, we also recognized our two seniors, Jessica Hall and Alyssa Tiumalu. These two have been outstanding for the past three years, and it has been so much fun playing with them. This past week, both seniors took part in our traditional “senior practice,” which means being able to show up late and coming dressed in the craziest outfit you can put together -- that is and still be able to move and throw a softball!

These two seniors are dear to my heart and I can’t wait to see where life takes them after softball. Jessica has been my pitcher in crime for the past three years, and I am going to miss her goofy self in the bullpen with me. She is one of the most down to earth, caring and funny people I have ever met, and I know she will do big things in her life.

Alyssa has been through a lot in her four years. She has faced multiple injuries that have scared us all but still has managed to find a way to help this team out. I commend and respect her for that and for continuing to work hard. I am going to miss her, especially since I have been playing softball with her since we were 12! But I can’t wait to see what new and exciting things life has planned for her.

But, folks, the season is not over yet and I am excited to see how this team continues to fight against anyone in the country.

Regionals here we come! GO BRUINS!

We live for the postseason

May, 15, 2014
ASU softballCourtesy of ASU AthleticsWith a one-game-at-a-time attitude, Arizona State opens at home Friday against Dartmouth.

Hi everyone! I know it has been a while since you’ve heard from me, but now that finals and school have come to a close you will be hearing much more from me over the next few weeks.

We just finished a tough conference schedule with the top-ranked Oregon Ducks and the second-ranked UCLA Bruins. I believe the past few weeks have been great in preparing us for my favorite part of the season: postseason! We had to play at such a high level the past few weeks that I am sure we are ready for the last third of our 2014 season.

Postseason is the absolute best time of year. This is when the most passionate and exciting softball is played. There is just something different in the atmosphere. We are fortunate to be starting with regionals on our home turf and to play in front of our fans and family.

I still think this ASU Sun Devil team has not peaked, which is a good thing. I am positive people can expect to see more from us because let’s face it, we live for this. We feel as if many people have written us off, so we are prepared to come out guns blazing. Postseason is when the Sun Devils come alive and play our best softball. We are prepared to compete, fight and do whatever it takes to get back to Oklahoma City.

Our road to OKC starts Friday against Dartmouth. We know they are not to be taken lightly, but our mindset has not changed even though it is a bigger stage. We are going to take it one pitch at a time, one a game at a time, never looking too far ahead. The most important game of the season is Friday afternoon, and the Sun Devils will be ready.

Thanks so much for tuning in. Go Devils!

We're in a great position

May, 15, 2014
FSU celebrateCourtesy FSU AthleticsFSU solidified its regular-season title with a 3-1 victory over Notre Dame in the ACC championship game and is ready to continue the journey.

The postseason is upon us and it has been a memorable one so far. This last month of the season is where everything comes together, where you lay it all on the line in hopes of peaking at the right time. It takes heart, passion, a go-get-it attitude and a little luck, and so far our team has shown that we’ve gotten it all together at just the right time.

Before this season began, we knew we’d have the potential to be a Women’s College World Series team. That was our goal, but a goal is one thing and achieving that goal is another. After playing a tough regular-season schedule and putting in countless hours on the field, I know we’re all ready and excited to compete for our chance at Oklahoma City.

As I’ve said throughout the season, our bond has grown and during the ACC tournament it was easy to see just how hard we’ve worked to put ourselves in a great position.

During the first game I was a little shaky on the mound, walking far more batters than is characteristic of me, but my team had my back, scoring 11 runs and playing solid defense throughout the game.

You can learn a lot from games like these, games where you don’t have your best stuff. In these tough situations, it’s your teammates and your training that you have to rely on.

I learned that at the ACC tournament. Teammates are the first to push you to your limit, to ask you to “be big” and “get it done.” Sometimes they are the ones who believe in you even more than you believe in yourself. It’s those kinds of teammates and that kind of a bond that gets teams to the World Series.

Each of us did our part in the ACC tournament. From base running to video bombing, our team does a great job of competing for one another, staying loose and having fun. After winning our quarterfinal and semifinal matchups, we advanced to the championship game for the second year in a row. We still had a bitter taste in our mouths after losing the championship 1-0 last year, and we wanted to prove we were deserving of our 2014 regular-season title.

Against a very good Notre Dame team, we fired on all cylinders to come out as ACC tournament champions. There are no words that can describe that feeling. Smiles and hugs spread like wildfire after the final out was recorded, and as we circled around the trophy it all became real.

Not only had we won the ACC tournament, but by doing so we also had solidified our No. 8 national seed. Seeing all of our hard work pay off and so many of our goals become a reality is the complete meaning of joy. We accomplished all of these feats as a team, and having so many special people to share these moments with is the real treat.

As we continue on our journey to Oklahoma City, we have more goals to reach and more memories to make, but one thing is for sure. This family is in it until the very end.

This is the best time of year

May, 10, 2014
Tennessee SoftballAndrew Bruckse/Tennessee AthleticsDespite an early loss in the SEC tourney, Tennessee is determined to make the postseason last as long as possible.

Postseason softball can only mean one thing: School is over and it is summertime. Oh, and I guess some softball!

It is the best part of the year for the Tennessee Lady Vols. It’s what we have worked for since we came together back in August. The SEC tournament might not have worked out as we expected, but this is a team that never seems to quit. We enjoy every moment we get to play with each other, and we want to make that last as long as possible.

I also think postseason is such a great time because we actually have time to do things we love. Often during the year, our lives consist of school, softball and sleep. Not that school is a bad thing, but I must say it is not the most enjoyable thing to do.

Since there isn’t much time for anything else during the year, it can wear on you mentally. Postseason is a great time to get rejuvenated and do things you love besides softball. I think many of us could say hobbies are what help us enjoy life. The same is true for us athletes. Any time we have time to get into things we love, it helps us relax and enjoy playing softball even more. For the Lady Vols softball team, this could mean a lot of different things.

Taylor Koenig likes to catch up on TV shows such as “CSI Miami’’ and watch movies on Netflix. Hannah McDonald loves to paint and go on hikes. Knoxville is one of the prettiest places in the country, and it definitely is a great place to explore and go on hikes. Along with Hannah, Cheyanne Tarango also likes to find her inner artist as she has more time do so some sketching.

A couple of our girls, Lexi Overstreet and Erin Gabriel, enjoy leisurely running at some of the pretty parks around Knoxville. We also have a few musical artists on the team in Anna Renfroe and Annie Aldrete, even though they probably won’t admit it. Anna loves to play the guitar and sing, and I can tell you from hearing her myself, Annie has a pretty voice. Rainey Gaffin likes to spend her time reading and hanging out with friends. Haley Tobler enjoys discovering new restaurants and cool places to explore in Knoxville.

With all that said, shopping seems to be one of the most popular “hobbies” of the Lady Vols. Lexi, Cheyanne, Melissa Davin and Madison Shipman all admitted to spending time shopping at the mall in Knoxville.

This is what the Lady Vols are up to now. But whether it’s catching up on TV shows, sleeping, shopping or exploring Knoxille, we all come together on the softball field to accomplish our mission: WIN! That is what we hope to do this postseason. Go Vols!

Saying goodbye to a dear friend

April, 30, 2014
Taylor FosterCourtesy of FSU SoftballTaylor Foster remains an inspiration to the team she dreamed of playing for.

My original plan for this blog was to focus solely on our six extraordinary seniors who have invested unimaginable time and effort in this program, but we had an emotional hardship to deal with this past week. As I have mentioned before, Taylor Foster is a huge part of our program, and on April 27 she passed away from cancer.

When I think about how often people say someone lost their battle against cancer, I can’t bring myself to say that about Taylor because I truly don’t believe she lost. As an athlete, Taylor knew a lot about winning and even more about not giving up. You could say the same thing about her fight against cancer. She didn’t let it defeat her, and whether she was feeling better or still hurting, she didn’t let anyone see her sweat. Through her struggles and her infectious positivity, Taylor used her story to bring light to other’s lives.

[+] EnlargeFSU seniors
Courtesy Maury NeiprisFSU's seniors will leave everything on the field -- for the team and for Taylor.

I think this is especially true for our team. Whether we are winning by 10 or losing by four, we know we always have someone to fight for. Taylor’s jersey, with the number “7’’ on the back and “Foster” across the nameplate, hangs in our locker room every day and in our dugout on game days. With every glimpse of the jersey we learn to fight and play a little harder for our Seminole who never stopped fighting. Although she’s no longer with us on the field, I feel better knowing that she’s now with the Lord, healed and healthy, cheering us on from the best seat in the house.

I think our seniors have a true understanding of Taylor’s message and a special place in their hearts that Taylor will always hold. You never know when the game will be taken from you, which is why we always focus on playing for those who can’t. For Taylor the game was taken away far too early, but for our seniors there is still much left for them to leave on the field. Although their time as Seminoles will soon be coming to a close, they have left a legacy that will not soon be forgotten.

Together, Courtney Senas, Celeste Gomez, Jessica Nori, Kelly Hensley, Tiff Brown and Bri Hamilton have worked to continue building on the strong tradition of Florida State softball. They have dedicated countless hours to improving their abilities in the classroom, the weight room and on the field, but even more important is how they have impacted the lives of others.

Through camps and clinics, community service and plenty of autographs, our seniors have inspired young girls all over the country to play the game of softball with the same amount of heart and passion they play with.

With each game, each inning and each out they have left, our seniors have so many reasons to play the game hard, and I know they will leave everything on the field, not only for us, but for Taylor.

Cherishing every last moment

April, 29, 2014
Ellen Renfroe, Melissa Davin, and Madison ShipmanCourtesy Ellen RenfroeFour years of working out, practicing and studying have brought Tennessee seniors Ellen Renfroe, Melissa Davin and Madison Shipman close together.

As the season winds down, the big question for every senior is “What’s next?” Will I go to graduate school? Where will I work? How will I find a job? However, for the time being, my fellow seniors and I are only concerned about giving our best for Tennessee. We are trying to enjoy every last minute we have with our teammates and to cherish every moment we get to wear “Tennessee” across our chests.

I think each of us could say our senior year has come faster than we ever thought. There were many days, especially during each fall of our careers, when we thought we would never make it. Every day in the fall we had to get up at the crack of dawn to go work out, go to class, rush to lunch and then head to a long afternoon of practicing. After that, we would hit the books and start all over again the next day.

[+] EnlargeTennessee softball
Courtesy of Ellen RenfroeTennessee's seniors are trying to enjoy their last minutes with their teammates.

After four years of this, I think it is safe to say being a college athlete has taken a toll on us physically and mentally. I also think it is safe to say those moments when we thought we couldn’t go on are what have brought us closer together. Now that it is all coming to a close, all you can do is see the positive in what we have left. We are enjoying every meal, practice, workout and game we have to share with those we have spent the past four years with.

We do have to face the future at some point, though. Our two other seniors, Melissa Davin and Madison Shipman, will be completing their undergraduate degrees in the fall and graduating in December. I plan on moving back to West Tennessee to pursue a career in the social-work field. Right now, I am trying not to stress too much about life after college and trust that the Lord has it under control.

I think one of the biggest challenges is going to be adjusting to a new lifestyle. We will no longer have someone to push us in the weight room or be able to eat whatever we want. It will be a true test of how motivated and disciplined we are to keep ourselves in shape and live a healthy, active life. I think that is something I am most excited about, though. I am ready for a new challenge and to experience life on my own.

For now, though, it’s all about playing for BIG ORANGE COUNTRY! God Bless and GO VOLS!

Looking to shift the pendulum

April, 23, 2014
Victoria HaywardCourtesy of Washington AthleticsWashington split games with Arizona State last weekend, but the rubber match was rained out.

Hi, everyone!

I hope you had the chance to catch at least one of our games against Stanford on ESPN2 or ESPNU two weeks ago. Over my four-year career it has been awesome watching the sport of softball continue to grow, with an increased number of games televised. Not only did the ESPN crew catch my fellow Huskies win two of our three games on the road in Palo Alto, we even spent a little time together off camera, tossing a Frisbee and football around during pregame warm-ups!

This past weekend’s series against Arizona State was about as competitive and intense as college softball can get. Game 1 was a heartbreaker with Kaitlin Inglesby throwing a perfect game through six innings, eventually giving up just two hits, but falling 3-1. Lucky for us, we were able to bounce back 30 minutes later and take Game 2 in dramatic fashion, 3-2, on a 10th-inning home run from “Hoochie Mama” Hooch Fagaly.

With the momentum swinging in our favor for what felt like the first time in weeks, we couldn’t wait for that decisive rubber match the following morning. As you know, Seattle is infamous for its rainy and dreary weather, and after an absolutely beautiful Friday we were hoping Saturday’s storm would hold off long enough for us to finish our final game against the Sun Devils. Unfortunately, it did not.

Saturday’s game started with a 1-2-3 top of the first. Nothing sets the tone for a game quite like a dominant first inning. With the wind at our backs both figuratively and literally (it was blowing so hard an aluminum flag pole was knocked down), our offense confidently delivered the first punch -- a two-run home run by Inglesby, scoring me from first base.

We celebrated around home plate as the rain began to fall, feeling the momentum of the season finally shifting to our favor. Four batters later, as the rain began to pick up, the inning ended. The storm was upon us, forcing us to pull out the big tarp and enter a rain delay.

After an hour or so in the locker room, the game was called and it was erased -- as if we had never stepped onto the field that morning. We were disappointed and frustrated, but we left that Saturday afternoon with our shoulders pinned back and our chins held high because that was the first time in four years we (theoretically) had “won” a series over the Sun Devils, or at least felt as if we had.

This week, we prepare to head down to Corvallis, Ore., for a three-game series against Oregon State. This is our opportunity to swing that pendulum into our favor once and for all. This season has been full of ups and downs, our team has experienced injuries left and right, but through it all, we’ve come together with a huge opportunity in front of us.

Keep up with our team on Twitter and Instagram @UWSoftball!

Go Dawgs!