SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (BVM) – Last spring a season was ripped away from the Lakeland University softball team just ten games in. It was a season many will not forget, but the team is focusing on the future, not the past.
“My heart sank…” Coach Tammy Utley said, “I was devastated for the seniors whom just played their last collegiate softball game along with all the other student-athletes who had worked so hard to be able [to] compete.”
The 2020 season was a season the team believed would be successful within the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) with the largest group of seniors Coach Utley had ever had at Lakeland.
COVID fall ball is a different one for all sports teams, but the Lakeland softball team is focusing on safety.
“Safety has been our number one focus by far…” senior Ally Lira said, “if we [do not] practice social distance [measures], wear masks, and sanitize equipment frequently, we will not have a spring season.”
This is the mindset of the entire team as they do not want to see another season stripped from them.
Coach Utley has made it clear to the team that she wants them to, “do the right things in order to stay safe and healthy so we are able to compete in the spring.”
Being able to compete is a privilege right now, so doing the right actions is important for the softball team , but also the other teams who are beginning their seasons and practices.
“Be grateful for each day you are able to step on the court, field, or course with your team because it can be taken away at a moment’s notice…” says Utley, “Every day focus on your purpose and remember why you do what you do.”
Senior Sydney Wickman urges student-athletes across the country to, “give it all you got because you never know when you might play your last game or have your last practice.”
Living through a pandemic is an experience no one can explain, but these ladies are finding the positives in being out on the field again, even while wearing masks and staying distanced from their teammates who they have grown close to.
Reflecting on the work this fall, “I definitely want to applaud my teammates for how hard they are working so far to stay healthy and protect our team,” Lira said.
Being back out on the field come spring is the main goal for this team, and they have made that known.
Sacrifices are a part of sports, but even more important during a pandemic where you do not want to be the reason one of your senior teammates does not get a season come March.
Although Lira and Wickman will be offered an additional year of eligibility, neither of them plan to use it. Lira has had a passion and love for the game of softball for the last ten years, which has made her a great image of a Division III student-athlete, but she, “needs to open up a new chapter in [her] life and focus on [her] career and furthering [her] education.” The true mindset of a Division III student-athlete.
Having a veteran team coming back, success is what this team is striving for currently. The safety precautions will continue through their season to ensure they get to play this time around. Their time is not up yet as they look to continue safety precautions to have the chance to make a run in the NACC this spring.