Monday, May 9, 2011

Guess What We're Doing this Weekend?

My face hurts from smiling, my eyes hurt from crying and my heart hurts from fluttering. These have been an intense 24 hours but I can finally sigh in relief that the 2011 Blugolds are on the map! The range of emotions that I have felt over the conference tournament and into this morning are impossible to describe but I'll do my best for those of you who didn't get to witness it first hand.

Friday: We all loaded the bus after morning classes to start our journey into a post season run. As Karen said, we all read our anticipated spotlights that had us all in tears of joy and laughs of love. To keep the relaxed mood going, we watched the infamous "Ellen Degeneres, Here and Now" stand up comedy that ALWAYS keeps me laughing even though I can recite the whole thing by heart. When we got to the field, our warm up was shortened, and intensified but there were still nerves flowing through us but nerves were a natural feeling considering the circumstances. We knew this game would dictate the battles and challenges we would have to face the rest of the weekend. Challenge Accepted. We came out with the most energy that I've seen from this team the whole year. We battled a dominating pitcher for the first 6 innings and after an amazing diving catch by baby birdie Jenny Hess, we had the momentum going into the 7th. We knew we were in good hands when we lead the inning off with a walk and 6 runs later...BOOM. We were on the scoreboard. Yes, we gave up 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th but isn't the point of softball to score more runs than your opponent ?? Thought so...check...we did that and started the tourney 1-0 :)

Saturday: After breakfast and a wonderful morning of being able to sleep until 8, we were ready for game two. We were facing a LaCrosse team that had been on a role as of late. We came out of the gates scoring our first run right away. But once again, LaCrosse got the best of us for the 3rd time this year and we were handed our first loss. To be honest, I don't remember much of this game. If there is anything Coach and Robin have taught me through my struggles this year is that you have to let it go. Holding on to negative experiences whether it be defensive plays or at-bats will only make your future successes few and far between. It took me a while to really buy into this concept because I'm stubborn and I'll admit it. But I think I've finally grasped the lesson and thus, I just let that LaCrosse game go. We still had another game to play. Our bats came out hot against Superior scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the first. And once again, having to supply the energy for both teams, with an added morning loss wasn't easy. But we weren't ready to go home yet and kept our post season dreams alive with a 6-1 win.

Three teams left. Eau Claire, LaCrosse and River Falls. We played LaCrosse first. The mentality was much the same as during our first game vs. Whitewater. We were intense but relaxed...we had what I like to call, some serious fun during that game. Our pre game warm up was the same, with the addition of the cupid shuffle by our rhythmically talented infielders. It was a great ball game. We battled LaCrosse the entire way, chasing their starting pitcher from the game and keeping them unbalanced in the batters box. At the end of 7, we once again found ourselves with more runs than our opponent, and like the night before, kept our dreams alive.

Two teams left: Eau Claire and River Falls. We were just starting to play our best ball and we once again were faced with a battle. The game was intense play after great at bat after dominant pitching from both teams. At the top of 7, we were up 4-2 with three outs to go. Somewhere between getting the 2nd and 3rd out, River Falls managed to put up three runs on us to go up 5-4. We threatened in the bottom of the 7th but couldn't get a runner across the plate and thus, had been defeated. Feelings of disbelief and heart break were among all of us. We played so well and yet, found ourselves without an automatic bid into the post season tournament. Without focusing too much on the negatives, I'll just say that in those moments after our loss, standing there with not only my teammates, but some of my best friends, we were devastated to say the least. We didn't know if we'd have a shot at an at large bid and thus. It could have been the last time the 2011 Blugolds were on the field together. It hurt and it made me sick to my stomach. None of us knew what to think.

It was hard to stay positive after that game. We knew there was still a chance at a bid, but it wasn't in our control anymore. We had to play the waiting game which I can now tell you is my least favorite game of all time, hands down. I personally couldn't get too positive or too negative about the situation because going to either extreme had the potential to set me up for heart break once again. I was a zombie. Not knowing if I would play again this season simply didn't seem real. I didn't want to believe it.

Wake up at 5:00am...I can't sleep. The weather certainly isn't giving me extra hope and guess what I have to do? Go to class. Awesome. The selection show wasn't until 11:00am so I had to make it through two classes, dodging the question on how the weekend went and when my next game was. At 10:50 I booked it up the hill, met up with my teammates and coaches, and prepared for the moment. Linked arm and arm, we sat there waiting. To make matters worse, we play in a state where every school starts with "The University of Wisconsin...." so each time we heard Wisconsin, our hearts raced, only to find out it said Whitewater, or La Crosse. We got to the Eau Claire regional, the first four teams were announced and then it popped up on the screen. THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-EAU CLAIRE. You'll have to watch the video of us to see our reaction because I can't do it justice by trying to explain it. Hugs, tears, name it, it was there. We made it. We got to continue our dream of a post season run. We were given a second chance and for that, we are all very grateful. For me though, it's more than that.

As an upper classman, I've been to regionals before: my freshmen year. We received an at large bid that year to the Illinois Wesleyan regional but I didn't even get to set foot on the dirt. In 2009 we had more players on the team than the NCAA allowed to suit up during the post season. We had two more than the allotted number and thus, I was one of two players who had to witness the action from the bleachers. I couldn't be in the dugout or warm up or even play catch. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do as a college softball player. Not being able to be with my team during that time made me frustrated, upset, angry, sad, and happy for my teammates all at the same time because of what they got to experience. I wanted nothing more than to be with them during such an exiting and amazing time and I couldn't. I remember it like it was yesterday. The feelings, the tears....everything.

So this year, getting into Regionals is extra special. I finally get to experience what my fellow upperclassmen got to experience without me in 2009. I get a chance to play and lead a team in the post season. I get to step out on the dirt and participate, and I get to do it at Gelein nonetheless. And what makes it extra special? Every single one of us 2011 Blugolds gets to suit up. Our entire team will be there together, fighting until the end. No one will have to experience what I had to in 2009 and for that, I am ecstatic and grateful. Coach said it best after our River Falls loss in that "there's just something special about this group of girls. I don't know what it is, but there's just something." I couldn't agree more. I couldn't imagine playing with 20 more amazing people that I call my teammates and my best friends. Being able to play on our home field, in front of the best crowd in Division III and to have all of us there doing it together, makes going through everything we've had to go through soooooooo worth it. I didn't think it was possible but my love of softball has grown even more these past few days. This game is constantly changing my life and my relationships with those around me for the better. Each and every day that I'm surrounded by my Blugold family I realize even more that I'm truly blessed to play on this team. Ladies, I cannot wait to see what's in store for us as we finally get our chance to Chase the Dream.

Until Next Time,

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