Sunday, May 24, 2009 (11:59 PM EST) - I truly
believe that God sends you on a journey in life at a specific time
and for a specific reason. I did not start at North Georgia,
nor did I imagine the blessing of this program on my life.
When I came to North Georgia I was hit with a big disappointment
immediately upon arrival. Because of an obscure NCAA rule, I
had a year of eligibility taken away from me. I could not
understand why this happened or why I was being punished.
Little did I know that there was a reason that was bigger than
anything I could understand. I was supposed to be on this
team, this year. If I would not have been punished I would
have finished a year ago without being a part of THIS team.
My career as a Saint ended today. I am so sad, not because I did not win a National Championship, but because I do not get to be a part of this team anymore. I will never be able to repay my coaches or teammates for the lessons they have taught me and the happiness they have given me. I will miss them so much!
Our dream came up short today, but I would not trade places with any other player on any other team. There is no trophy or title that is better than being a Saint. The girls on our team gave every last bit of their efforts until the very last pitch. I will take with me the desire and heart that each one of the girls put forth in order to achieve a common goal. I will carry so many lessons along with me in life to overcome the obstacles that are ahead of me.
I would like to thank my teammates for always being there for me, through thick and thin, they did and would do anything for me. I would also like to thank Allison for all her dedication to our team, she does not get enough appreciation for all the hard work that she does for our girls. Thank you to Amanda for stitching us up and taping us back together. I would like to thank my assistant coaches, Andrea Moss and Keri McKee, for handing down their knowledge and putting up with my hard head. I would especially like to thank Coach Davenport for not only being the best coach, but for caring about the development of the entire person. I cannot imagine any words that could truly express how appreciative I am of his work ethic and desire for the success of our team. Lastly, I would like to thank my family and the entire North Georgia Softball family for all of the support and love.
As I feel disappointed today for not winning a National Title, I know as time passes I will understand how many accomplishments this team had. We are Peach Belt Conference regular season and tournament champions. In the last two weekends, we won the Regional and Super Regional Tournaments held at our very own softball complex held in Dahlonega, Georgia. But most of all, we came together as a team and competed. We did what we all love, WE PLAYED SOFTBALL.
I am SO PROUD to be a Saint and am so grateful that I had the opportunity to play ball with these 18 individuals and three coaches. It was an incredible journey!
Saturday, May 23, 2009 (11:16 PM EST) - Our day
off today was well needed. After competing in two extra
inning games in a 48 hour period, our bodies were drained
physically and mentally. We were able to sleep in and we left
the hotel at 11:15 to head to Virginia Tech. We had the
opportunity to practice on Virginia Tech’s softball
field. I would like to thank Coach Scot Thomas for allowing
us to practice on his field. It was a wonderful experience as
our parents and softball family had the opportunity to watch our
practice. The Virginia Tech campus was beautiful and it was
wonderful to see the facilities.
During practice I realized how wonderful our softball family was and how lucky we are to have the support from friends and family. Our families bring love and support to every game as they are our 10th man on the field. I cannot count the times that my parents have had to give up their time, money, and own personal lives for my softball life. They have made almost every one of my games in my career. I will never be able to repay them for the wonderful memories they have given me throughout the years. As I looked around I realized that this was not only the case for my family, but also the majority of the girls on the team.
After practice we had some fun on the field as our Sports Information Director, David Beall, our assistant coaches Andrea Moss and Keri McKee, and the pitchers on our team were able to hit on the field. There was even a challenge between Coach Moss, a former pitcher, and David Beall to see if he could hit a pitch off of her. Both fought valiantly and although Coach Moss blew a couple pitches by David, he did have a line drive up the middle for a hit.
When we left the field we went to lunch with our softball family and had a good lunch where we were able to play pool and skee ball with players and family. We then went and visited the memorial for Virginia Tech where 32 lives were lost. There was a stone which represented each life that was lost on the day that the shooting occurred. As we looked at the names we were reminded of the tougher battles in life and how we are blessed to have the ability to play the sport that we love.
After lunch we went back to the softball complex and watched Lock Haven and Indianapolis battle on the field where Lock Haven came out the winner. We will play Lock Haven tomorrow morning, the only team remaining that we have not competed against this year. We left the field and came back to the hotel where we were in for the night. We ordered pizza and were allowed to hang out with family or teammates.
As we prepare for tomorrow we know we must battle one pitch at a time and one inning at a time. We want to prepare for this game the same way we have prepared for every other game this year. We must “pull down our shades” and mentally prepare for another battle tomorrow. Just as the Virginia Tech victims taught us and even girls on our own team have taught us, we are blessed to have the opportunity to play tomorrow. Jessica Skeels, Natasha Willemse, and Katherine Martin have all suffered season ending injuries. Those girls would probably give anything to have the opportunity to play tomorrow and each one of us should play each inning and every pitch as if it were our last. Although these girls cannot play on the field, they have been a huge part of our success this year. Tasha began the season as our starting catcher, but her season ended too quickly with a broken thumb and shoulder surgery. Jessica Skeels played almost half of the season until she ran into a fence chasing a ball and tearing her ACL. Katherine Martin, a freshman on the team, never had the opportunity in the spring to put on a uniform. Her freshman debut ended in the fall with shoulder surgery. They do not have the stats in the game, but without these girls we would not have our work ethic, spirit, or intensity. They all bring so much to our team.
As we prepare for tomorrow I think about how blessed I am to get to go out and play the game we love. Tomorrow I GET TO PLAY SOFTBALL. I am so PROUD to be a Saint and cannot wait to go to battle with my teammates tomorrow.
Friday, May 22, 2009 (11:47 PM EST) - And I thought it could not get better than yesterday…and yet it did! Our team has such resiliency, they are AMAZING. Our defense and pitching carried us through 10 innings as our offense took over in the 11th inning in another come-from-behind win. To have one game like we have had in the last two days would be amazing, yet we have had two games that are once in a lifetime comebacks. With one out and the bases loaded we managed to score two runs on a single to right field and another clutch hit from Lupis to score three runs to go ahead 3-2 against a battling Angelo State.
Although every game in the World Series is a big one, we knew going into this game that a win could put us in a very good position. We woke up this morning, again with our traditions, dancing to “Woop There It Is”, doing our hair just right, wearing the same undergarments (of course washed), and listening to the same music on the way to the game. We did not want to mess with any of our routines or superstitions that we have depended on all season long.
We warmed up as usual and had a relatively good warm-up. We all have done the same warm-up for so many games that we all know where to be at, what to do, and how to do it without asking or saying anything to each other.
As we lined up for the National Anthem and starting lineups we could feel the importance of this game. Although this is our first trip to the National Championships, I feel as though our team has handled the pressure and importance of our games relatively well. As a team we brought the energy to the game and tried to carry ourselves with confidence.
We battled offensively throughout the entire game but could not find a way to cross a run over the plate. Going into the bottom of the seventh inning we knew that if we would just score one run, we would win the game and move onto Sunday. I knew we would do it, I knew we would score the one run we needed. We loaded the bases with no outs as once again my teammates fought and battled to reach base. Somehow, some way I knew we would score. Somehow, some way they got out of the inning without giving up a run and we were forced to go into extra innings.
This was a major disappointment and was somewhat difficult to forget as we had to go right back onto defense and begin to fight again. That is the beauty of softball, if you fail to produce, you must forget it and move onto the next play. We moved on and continued to battle through 10 scoreless innings. As much as we wanted to win, Angelo State battled right back with us and eventually took the lead 2-0 in the top of the 11th inning.
Again, doubt began to creep into our heads but we had to fight the thoughts off in order to overcome and persevere. We all knew we had done it yesterday, but could we do it again today? Could we have a magical comeback? We knew that if we were going to do it again, we would have to do it one hit at a time. Pilar, Hilary, and Stephanie battled and fought their way onto the base paths. With one out I stepped to the plate. I wanted it so bad; I wanted to come through for my team because I knew how hard they had fought for 11 hard innings. Coach told me just to have fun as I walked to the plate, he did not want me to feel the pressure of losing if I did not get a hit, he wanted me to feel the experience of the situation. He wanted me to enjoy the moment, a moment where I had the opportunity to step up and come through for our team in a World Series game. What an opportunity? As a competitor you dream about these type moments. With a single to right field, we scored two runs to tie the game. Then with a runner on second, Lupis had another magical hit to score the winning run and advance us to Sunday.
I remember last year Krista Bess, our senior, hitting a two-run homerun to win a game in the conference tournament. When she hit the ball I could not help but think of the memories she would always carry with her from that day. Those memories are more than any picture or trophy could ever display. I feel like the last two days are memories that I will always carry with me, through my entire life. I can never repay our team and my coaches for the memories they have given me. They are priceless. I am so PROUD to be a Saint and cannot wait to return and battle with them again on Sunday.
Thursday, May 21, 2009 (9:58 PM EST) - Today
was one word, “Incredible.” I am so inspired by
the drive, desire, and perseverance that my team showed in our game
today. Down to our last out and our last strike we found a
way to fight and come back from a 3-0 deficit. I was truly
amazed by our continued fight in the face of adversity.
Having a late game was nice as we were able to sleep in before getting ready for our game. My roommate, Courtney McGuire and my normal roommate Jessica Skeels have a routine of waking up to an alarm of “Woop There It Is.” Even if we are awake, we pretend that we are sleeping so that we can wake up and dance on our beds to the song. Since Skeels is not our roommate on this trip we called and asked her to come all the way up from the pool area (even though she just had ACL surgery 3 weeks ago.) We tried to eat a not-so-good breakfast to which Courtney and I resorted to oreo cookies after being unsatisfied with the hotel food. The excitement and nerves set in as we walked to the bus from our hotel. We were all focused in on the task at hand and continued our pre-game rituals. We try to justify our superstitions by saying they are routine, but really we are tremendously superstitious.
As we arrived to the field we went through our normal routines of warm-up where running a pole becomes more and more difficult for my old body. As we waited to take the field I could feel the nerves starting to ball in my stomach. As we took our infield we tried to act like it was just another game while in the back of our minds we knew it was so much more.
As the game began the first couple of innings went by quickly, we threatened several different times but could not string together any hits. We had a terrible blow in the 5th inning when one of their players sent a three run homer over the fence. We fell behind for the first time in a very long time. We continued to have positive thoughts and tried not to let doubt creep into our heads. We battled and fought and nothing seemed to fall our way. Sarah Phillips, our pitcher, did a terrific job of battling even after the homerun and making sure she kept us in the game. With two outs in the seventh down by three with two runners on, Lupis (Laura Voyles) sent a three run bomb over the fence to tie the game. I do not think I have experienced that type of excitement in any game I have ever participated in during my career.
After three scoreless innings, Courtney McGuire stepped up with one out in need of just a simple base hit. She did plenty more than that sending a two run homerun over the fence to give our team the walk-off win.
I cannot believe the perseverance our team showed as they battled and fought back from the game. The game today was what the College World Series should look like and the team we played (Dixie State) acted with the utmost class. They battled the whole game and endured a very tough loss as they were ahead most of the game. They were respectful and showed class throughout the entire competition. It is good to see such good sportsmanship from the teams at the Elite Eight.
As we get ready for bed we have to again erase today’s excitement and focus on our next task at hand. Tomorrow we will play Angelo State at noon. Although it was such an incredible feeling to celebrate such an exciting win, it is time to “pull our shades down” and get refocused for tomorrow. I am so proud of my teammates and the determination they showed today. I will go to war with them any day of the week. I am so PROUD to be a Saint and am so thankful I can go to battle with them again tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009 (11:43 PM EST) - Day two of our journey began with a fulfilling experience at the Veterans Affairs Hospital located in Salem, Virginia. We delivered flowers to the men and women who had served in our armed forces for Memorial Day coming up on Monday. The men that we visited were long-term stay patients. Smiles came to their faces as the girls on our team brought the flowers and just simple company to their lives at the hospital. I could truly tell that it made their day to have visitors and guests come to their rooms. I realized that volunteering your time, just for an hour, can make somebody’s day. The visit also brought laughter to our team as one of the patients asked if Caroline, our more outspoken teammate to say the least, had been “smoking” the plant that she delivered to him. What I saw that was even more amazing was the men and women that worked with the veterans on an everyday basis. They were such kind and patient people that treated the men and women as their own parent or grandparent. I truly admire the nurses and staff that spend their days helping to make the veteran’s days better.
We left the hospital and headed to the field for practice at 10:15. Our first hour of practice was on the field that we would be playing on all week. I could feel the energy that the stadium had and tried to soak in the entire atmosphere. It was amazing to know that so many championships had been played at this very field. Our second hour was on another field as we took a round of infield, just as we have done almost everyday since beginning in August. As I was leaving the field to walk to our BBQ that was prepared for us, I walked out with my coach. He asked, “Whatcha think kid?” and I replied with “Incredible.” He told me to soak it all in and I have tried to soak in every minute, every second of the experiences I have had here in Salem, Virginia. As a former player and experienced coach, he truly loved playing the game and that is seen in his coaching. He tries to express to us how important it is to not just go through the motions, but enjoy every minute of the experiences because one day we will look back and wish we could be in that very moment.
We walked to the BBQ where we thoroughly enjoyed the food. There was pulled pork, ribs, chicken, corn, vegetables and most importantly ICE CREAM SUNDAES. There was karaoke, basketball, and corn hole being played by many of the teams. We could all see the different personalities of the teams, but at the same time could see all of the similarities.
We left to come back to the hotel and our exhaustion showed on the bus ride home. We all got off the bus and I believe most of us took a very good nap. We then got ready for the banquet and headed out around 6:30. We were in a little different attire than we were used to as we were mostly in dresses (although we still had our flip-flops). The banquet went very well and each team had an opportunity to have representatives come up and give a two minute speech. It was interesting to see what people came up with as we were not given many parameters of what we were supposed to discuss in these speeches. The first group was awesome as they sang a song to the tune of “Old McDonald.” As they sang the song there was definitely similarities of the struggles that each team went through during the year. We could all relate to bad weather, pulling the tarp, not-so-smart freshman, and fun experiences that were individual to each team. The one team discussed how one of their teammates asked “what kind of fish is catfish?” We were too embarrassed to say that one of our teammates who will remain unnamed who happens to be from Maryland asked “Is Okra a fish.” Although we are competitors, the banquet is a time to come together and celebrate a sport that we all love. The end of the banquet honored those who were named to the All-American teams. We were all very proud of our two All-Americans, Courtney McGuire and Sarah Phillips. They both have had a tremendous season and deserve all of the honors that they have received.
We got back to the hotel and of course changed right back into our clothes (sweats and tshirts). As Coach Whitlock discussed yesterday, now is the time to pull our shades down. We must now begin to focus and mentally prepare ourselves for the game tomorrow. The experiences we had today were fun, but now its time for business. I am PROUD to be a Saint and cannot wait to “Introduce Ourselves” tomorrow.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009 (11:05 PM EST) - Today I
woke up at 8:00 with a start knowing that we would be headed to
Salem, Virginia for the DII Softball National Championships.
It was easier than usual getting out of bed and getting ready for
practice. We went to practice at 9:00 and had a guest speaker
at 10:00. The guest speaker was Coach Whitlock from Kennesaw
State University. He was an experienced coach when it came to
DII softball as he has taken his team to Salem five times and
walked away with a National Championship two of those trips.
The two main ideas I took away from his speech was that we do not
talk about our talent but rather show our talent. He used the
phrase, “Introduce yourself” as a way of saying show
what you are made of as a team. He also spoke of the PRIDE we
should have in ourselves and our team for the accomplishments we
have had so far this year. I know, as a senior, that I will
be proud of this season no matter what happens this week but yet I
will not be satisfied with anything less than walking away with a
As we left Dahlonega for our first ever trip to the World Series as a Division II institution, we were sent off by a warm and well wishing softball community. In this group were professors, parents, school administration, the President of the University, school staff, and long-time fans of the program. It was an unbelievable feeling seeing all of the faces that came out to support us and wish us well. It was then, at that very moment, that it sunk in that we were going to the World Series.
Our bus was filled with excitement, pride, and joy that the goal we had so long worked for was finally here.
We left the school at 1:30 and were escorted by our campus police to our county line. Many of the girls slept and relaxed on the bus while I could not sit still thinking about the journey we were about to embark on during the next week. We stopped to eat down the road as I soaked in the laughs and friendships I have made throughout the last couple of years knowing after this week, I would not have the chance to travel with my team again. We are a team, we are a family, we are sisters and I know throughout the years the friendships I have made and the experiences I have had on the team will be a part of me for the rest of my life.
We arrived at the hotel at 9:30 and checked into our rooms. My roommate, Courtney McGuire, and I walked into our hotel room and just like any other college students were impressed with our rooms. She even went over to the lamp when she was unable to find the switch and tried to “clap on” the light. Unfortunately, she did not see the switch on the backside. The hotel was high tech, but not that high tech. My other teammate, Leslee Smith, walked in with our “free” water bottles that seemed like such a generous gift from the hotel. Unfortunately, the waters were not free, instead they were $4 dollars(this is $40 dollars in college student conversion.)
As we get ready to go to bed we all have excitement still running through our veins. Tomorrow morning we are looking forward to volunteering at a VA hospital with a chance to give back to the community. I am overwhelmed with the blessings I have been given not only this year, but also the last three years from the North Georgia community. I truly understand that for a softball player to end a career in such a prestigious place is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am so PROUD to be a Saint and cannot wait to begin my final chapter with my team.