Spring sports transition into postseason
Claire Voltarel, Campus Carrier Sports Editor
Chris Ferguson, Campus Carrier Asst. Sports Editor
With regular season coming to an end, several spring sports are working hard and looking forward to their postseason competitions.
The Berry baseball team has been performing exceptionally well, placing first in the SAA for the regular season. Going into playoffs as the first seed is an honor, and if they can hold this position, they may be able to achieve the program’s first-ever conference title. With a solid group of seven seniors, the team will be able to look to them for leadership as they take on the conference competition.
Looking back on the season, the team finished with a 15-4 record in conference and a 25-11 record overall. If the Vikings are able to carry this success into playoffs, they may very well be able to sweep the conference. Getting to host the tournament, the team will take on Hendrix College at William R. Bowdoin field in their first game of the tournament on Thursday at 6 p.m. and will continue playing if they win.
Senior Jacob Delk is proud of his team’s performance and is ready to take on conference opponents with a mindset to win.
“We have a group of guys with great team chemistry and that has helped us excel on and off the field,” Delk said. “We’re really excited going into this postseason because we feel like we’re playing our best baseball right now. We have won 10 straight games in conference and we have hopes of taking that into the conference tournament, regional, and hopefully a World Series. Clinching the regular season championship is something that we as seniors have been working towards every year and to finally accomplish that feels awesome. We hope that it sets Berry Baseball up for many more championships in years to come.”
The softball team has also experienced great success this season, finishing first in the conference with a 16-1 record and 33-4 overall record, remaining undefeated at home. Earlier this season, Berry was ranked fifth in the nation by the National Fastpitch Coach’s Association (NCFA). Only losing by one point in their single conference loss on the season, the lady Vikings will prove to be a difficult opponent to defeat in the conference postseason.
Historically, Berry has had a very solid softball program, falling just short of victory in the regional NCAA Division III softball tournament last year. If this year’s team is able to repeat this success, they may have another shot at the regional title.
Senior Kylie Aiken expects a solid postseason run by focusing on the smaller aspects of the game that will lead the team to victory.
“I’m expecting great things from our team this year,” Aiken said. “Our offense and pitching has dominated this year, something we’re expecting to take us far into post season. We’re trying to take it one weekend at a time, not overlooking anyone. We’ve had good competition this year to prepare us, but this whole season we’ve tried to focus on ‘Berry ball.’ If we keep focusing on doing the little things right, doing what we do best, and winning each day and each pitch, we should be able to extend our season to late May, which is the goal.”
After securing their first-round bye, the Vikings will face the winner of No. 4 Centre College against No. 5 Rhodes College in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Friday.
The Berry men’s lacrosse team secured their No. 2 spot in the conference after defeating the Sewanee Tigers last weekend. Continuing to rise throughout the season, the Vikings earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament this weekend and will host the winner of No. 3 Sewanee against No. 6 Hendrix in the semifinal game happening this Sunday at 1 p.m.
Having won their last six games, the Vikings are hopeful going forward in the tournament. There are a variety of potential outcomes. The ideal result would be the Vikings wining their Sunday game, and Rhodes falling in their semifinal round, then Berry would host the conference championship. If Rhodes wins their round, Berry will travel up to Memphis to face the Lynx for the championship title.
Graduate assistant coach Zack Olsen said the team has been preparing mentally through pool practices and dedicating their focus to their two mottos for the year. The first is “play up”, which means work hard for the individual, the team and the alumni who played before them. The second motto being “next play”, which refers to the efforts made after a mistake to make a solid next move and keep the game going.
“This is a very resilient team,” Olsen said. “They are starting to learn how to win.”
Looking back on the season, Olsen noted the leadership the captains have provided the team, and while they’ll lose some strong defenders and teammates, he is hopeful for the young talent to step up in the fall.
“We’ve got some guys that are young that can fill some shoes and we are looking to bring in some more recruits that can step into some big time playing roles,” Olsen said.
The women’s lacrosse team has had to overcome many obstacles this year, almost having to forfeit their season due to lack of players and experiencing a complete change in coaching staff. However, the lady Vikings have proven to be resilient, recruiting a handful of new players and embracing their new coaching staff. The team has remained optimistic throughout the season, relying on their seniors and coaches for leadership.
Going into the postseason as the sixth seed underdogs, the team has nothing to lose as they face the Tigers at Sewanee in their first game of the conference playoffs on Friday.
Senior Shadae’ Williams is motivated by her team’s resilience this season and considers the key to victory is believing in eachother.
“As a senior, it means so much to see how far we’ve come given all the obstacles we have faced this season,” Williams said. “To be able to have a shot at playoffs is something I don’t take for granted, and I will definitely give it my all in our next game. For the team to be able to have a shot at winning on Friday, every single player on and off the field has to believe that we have a chance of winning, no matter what the odds look like.”
Senior Jenn Leahy agrees with Williams that there have been many hardships this season and she also remains optimistic going into the conference tournament.
“My expectations are that we will beat Sewanee and make it to the final game against Rhodes,” Leahy said. “We have gone so far in overcoming obstacles and I think everyone on the team has understood that. I think we are fully prepared to take on Sewanee on Friday.”
With the men’s team in sixth and the women’s team in fifth, Berry tennis will travel to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to compete in their conference tournament. The women will face Oglethorpe on Friday morning, followed by the men’s team competing against Rhodes College that afternoon. The winners of those matches will continue on to compete Saturday.
“The players have worked hard to get where they are now, and we just hope that it all pays off for the conference tournament this weekend,” graduate assistant coach Taylor Lindsay sad.
According to Lindsay, the teams have strong singles players, but the key to conference will be to figure out their best doubles teams.
“We know that we do not have an easy first round, but we do have a chance of winning on both sides,” Lindsay said. “So our attitude and mindset going into the tournament is to figure out how to win our doubles.”
In reflecting on the season, Lindsay is proud of the team’s ability to overcome adversity. Both men’s and women’s teams have grown from these challenges.
“We have gone through quite the roller coaster with a couple of players quitting, injuries and illnesses,” Lindsay said. “It has been a battle the whole season, but our players have stepped up to the challenge and have done really well during these circumstances.”
Looking ahead, Lindsay said both teams have young talent, and while they will lose assets in their graduating players, the Vikings are looking forward to the new additions being added for the fall.
Track and Field
Men and women’s track and field will also travel this weekend to Sewanee to compete in the conference championships on Friday and Saturday.
While the team has greatly improved over the season, producing numerous personal records and currently maintaining several No. 1 ranked athletes, the projections for the tournament are lower than what assistant graduate coach Zack Smith believes the team can achieve with women’s in fourth and men’s in third. Smith said several athletes have opportunities to be successful this weekend, so the projections are being used as a driving force.
“That gave us motivation going into this weekend,” Smith said. “We are expecting big things.”
According to Smith, the attitude going into this week is remaining consistent in their hard work and strength at practice.
“We are all really making a group effort to perform well and finish strong this weekend,” Smith said.
Smith noted the team chemistry in a more individualized sport has helped the Vikings work harder to benefit the program as a whole.
“We are all working together,” Smith said. “We all have individual events, but it all comes together for the greater good of the team.”
Smith also noted their team’s ability to overcome adversity in the tough times the Berry community has faced this season, which has contributed to the team’s chemistry. This connecting, combined with the youth of their team and more time in the weight room will help the program grow and be successful in the next year to come.
With the men’s team having four top-ten finishes and the women’s team placing top-ten in every tournament in the regular season, both sides of Berry golf are looking forward to the conference tournament at Greystone Golf Club in Dickson, Tenn. this upcoming weekend.
The men’s team hopes to match or beat their second place finish in the conference tournament last year, while the women’s team is confident they will build on their previous fifth place finish.
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