Wisconsin softball’s senior class has been providing some highlight worthy moments for the team this year, but more importantly, they’ve been an anchor for a team that is largely made up of underclassmen.
Seniors Katie Christner, Ashley Van Zeeland, Taylor-Paige Stewart and Macy Oswald are proving to be the team’s backbone this year, providing leadership and support whenever possible.
This kind of support is needed now more than ever, considering the Badgers have spent a majority of their season away from Goodman Diamond. The Badgers have only played 11 out of 44 games at home this year, so relying on a home support system has not been an option for this team.
This season has been filled with some high moments, along with some shocking upsets for the Badgers.
One thing Wisconsin head coach Yvette Healy is thankful for is the persistence of her team in crucial moments and their determination to never give up on themselves.
“I think a lot of teams would just fold [after losing to a weaker team] at that point,” Healy said. “It’s gut-wrenching to lose a game that you think you should win.
“We have really good seniors, and I think that speaks volumes. Katie Christner came in and she was the story of the day. She was a senior that’s had knee surgery and been battling injury. She and Ashley Van Zeeland, all of them, they keep the team believing.”
Of course, every team will find themselves losing a game at one point in time, but Christner knows one of the key elements of success for any team is to not only push past those losses, but to just keep moving forward.
And it is not like the Badgers have much time to dwell on any past games, considering they play anywhere from four to six games a week. This kind of fast-paced schedule means the Badgers cannot let any past games become a hindrance to future success.
“I think our team handles [the fast-paced schedule] really well,” Christner said. “I think our team is really good at making sure we’re not dwelling on games. Once a game is over, we’re automatically looking at the next game, which is something that I think we have going for us.”
If the fast-paced schedule seems to be becoming too much for the younger players, they look to their seniors.
From the outside, you would have a hard time believing that Stewart had just pitched her 20th inning of the week, or that Oswald had just been up to bat for the fourth time that weekend.
Van Zeeland knows that, as a senior, sometimes the best thing she can do for her team is just to be a leader for them. Whether that means trying to get a scoring drive started, or pushing through the third game of the weekend, Van Zeeland always leads her team by example.
“I think just being a leader [helps the team succeed],” Van Zeeland said. “Being out there and knowing that I’ve been playing for four years, it’s just important to lead the team and know that they are going to listen.”
Van Zeeland doesn’t need to worry about leading her team on a consistent basis, because she says this year’s team is one of the most motivated in the league.
Whether it is watching extra film in preparation for a game, or putting in a few extra hours of batting practice, the team’s hard work is paying off.
“I think each person on our team is super self-motivated,” Christner said. “I think every person wants to help the team and do it for the team. I think that is super important and something this team is doing a really good job of.”
With just 11 games remaining in the regular season before the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin will need to rely on leadership to carry the team all the way to the end of an already promising season.
Luckily for this young team, they have four leaders who are more than willing to carry these Badgers back to a level of success they’ve had in past seasons.