Laker softball club with high hopes for 2015

Brady McAtamney

Last season, the Grand Valley State softball club finished 21-12, advanced to the national tournament and achieved a number of other goals.

For many, such a finish would be satisfactory. The Lakers, however, are not content to settle with the 2014-15 finish again.

The 21-12 record was one of the best records in the club’s brief, yet strong, six-year history. This year, GVSU will look to improve upon the success it sustained last season.

The 2015-16 schedule is not exactly filled up with easy victories. GVSU will go head-to-head with the likes of the Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Central Michigan Chippewas and other highly touted Division I schools.

The Lakers (3-0) compete under the rule of the National Club Softball Association (NCSA) as members of the Great Lakes East Conference.

The Lakers return nine players from last season’s squad, including Anna Eckholm, Hannah Johnson, Paige Lavin and Kelsea Reed. Lavin, a sophomore outfielder, noted that newcomers Delaney Maki, a pitcher, and Kerry Foley, a catcher and third baseman, will be key players this season.

The improvements of the pitching staff and catching corps were highly stressed by a number of Lakers. While pitching is an oft-focused upon aspect, every facet of the game must work for GVSU to succeed.

“We played around with our positioning a bit in the infield, Hannah (Nyeboer) is our new shortstop and did really well,” said Rachel Chase, a sophomore pitcher and outfielder. “Good defense behind our strong pitching will be important.”

Not only is the defensive side of the ball looking stronger, but Reed, a senior outfielder and team president, had high praise for the team’s offensive outlook.

“I definitely expect to have some big hitters,” she said. “The ball was flying off our bats this past weekend.”

The mental battle in softball, however, has the potential to cripple even the physically strongest of teams. A healthy blend between mental stability and a skilled team is key to all teams looking for success in softball.

Luckily for the Lakers, they won’t have to worry about coming up short in the fight against themselves.

“When something bad would happen, our team would come together and solve the problem. We have very good teamwork and communication,” Lavin said in regard to last season. “We’d have games in which we’d be down five runs in the final inning and we’d just rally around each other and come back to win.”

For many teams, coaches can be the crucial piece in keeping a team from mental lapses and breakdowns. The Lakers, however, don’t have a coach to fall back on. The team coaches itself which, in some ways, could be viewed as a disadvantage.

In others, however, it could be a positive.

“We’re self-coached, so we really have to put in an effort to want it,” Chase said. “I think that’s a huge driving factor, it makes everything more worthwhile. We want to win.”

Members of the softball club don’t mince words when it comes to team goals. The Lakers have their eyes set on the national tournament.

“I would like to see us go to nationals this year, I think that’s definitely realistic,” Chase said. “We also want to beat Michigan. They’re the toughest team in our division, and they beat us twice in three close games last year. We want to sweep them.”

GVSU started off the season by sweeping CMU in a three-game series. The Lakers recently travelled to Eastern Illinois to take part in the Eastern Illinois University Tournament.

The Lakers have hopes to snag a conference title and get a shot to travel to Columbus, Georgia to compete in the 2016 NCSA World Series at the end of May.