Despite abrupt exit, GVSU softball proud of 2018 campaign

<p>GVL / Emily Frye</p>
<p><strong>Bittersweet</strong>: Despite their season ending earlier than expected, the 2018 Grand Valley State softball squad had quite the season.</p>

GVL / Emily Frye

Bittersweet: Despite their season ending earlier than expected, the 2018 Grand Valley State softball squad had quite the season.

Kellen Voss

All good things have to eventually come to an end, and that’s exactly the case with Grand Valley State softball for the 2018 season. 

GVSU had a dominant regular season, posting an impressive 24-2 record in conference and 44-9 season overall, finishing in first place in the GLIAC and winning the GLIAC tournament before falling to Southern Indiana 2-1 on May 13 in the NCAA Midwest Region Tournament.

Despite losing a little earlier than they expected, the 2018 season is not one to be ashamed of for the Lakers. They looked like one of the best Division II softball teams for the entire regular season, and head coach Dana Callihan was more than satisfied with how her team performed this year.

“I was very pleased with this season, and I was proud of everybody who played,” Callihan said. “We were hoping to play a week or two longer, but overall I think it was a good season. We left our hearts on the field, and that’s all you can ask for.”

GVSU’s dominant regular season was highlighted by an astounding 21-game winning streak, the second longest in school history, starting on March 8 and not coming to an end until April 21.

“Anytime you can string games like that together, it’s a lot of fun,” Callihan said. “It was one of the longest winning streaks in the country, and it was hard to do, but it was a pretty awesome ride.”

After a stellar regular season, ending the campaign in the regional final left a bitter finish to a rather sweet season. Despite that, Callihan still feels as if this team reached their full potential and just needed a few lucky breaks to make a deeper postseason run.

“We could have gone further with a break here or there, but you got to have a little luck to survive, and we couldn’t hit when we needed to, especially in our last two games,” Callihan said. “As far as how we performed, I think we reached our full potential, and as a coach you can’t ask for more than that.”

Perhaps the one thing that Callihan will remember most about this incredible team is their chemistry and love for each other. She admired how close this team was, and the bonds they made clearly contributed to their success.

“This is one of the closest teams I’ve ever encountered, and not only did we have the talent (to succeed), we had the right culture and everybody played for each other,” Callihan said. “We fought for each other, and that contributed to our success.”

For next year, GVSU looks to fill some big holes in the roster in third basemen Teagan Shomin and pitcher Allie Grys, who were stars on the field and in the classroom, as they both earned CoSIDA All-District Honors.

Shomin and Grys lead a mighty senior class and will be missed next season along with fellow seniors Courtney Reinhold, Tanner Kiessel and Jessica Ramos. All five players made an impact for the Lakers this season, and  Callihan will remember them fondly.

“There were a lot of things to love about this year’s group of seniors,” Callihan said. “I loved their grit, their leadership, their professionalism and their character. You always want seniors to set the tone for next year’s class, and I think they did that.”

Despite losing these players, the 2019 team has a lot to be excited about. Pitcher Allison Lipovsky returns for her final season after an impressive 2018 campaign punctuated by NCFA first team All-American honors.

Another year of experience, lifting and practicing will be good for the young Lakers team. This year’s team featured many freshmen in the starting lineup – notably Nikoma Holmen, Taylor Rieger and Bailey Thatcher – who were major contributors in 2018 and all look to be even better next year. 

As good as this year’s team was, they have the potential to make an even deeper postseason run next season. As long as their chemistry stays high and they’re still willing to put the work in, the sky may truly be the limit for this team.

“I think we’re in good shape going into next year, and I’m excited for it,” Callihan said. “As much as I hated to see this year end, we’re in a great spot for next year. We just got to put the work in, and we’ll see what happens.”