The promising season that awaits the Vikings softball team is right around the corner. Their season begins Feb. 5, and goes through to Feb. 7, with five scheduled games in the Desert Stinger Tournament in Las Vegas.
With 18 returning members, the Vikings are this year’s most experienced team in the league. They were recently picked by Great Northwest Athletic Conference coaches to win the conference after five of the eight coaches predicted them to place first.
It’s important for the Vikings to do well in the Desert Stinger Tournament because even though they are not playing teams from their conference, if it comes down to regional rankings, those are the games that will be looked at.
“Our coach always emphasizes winning early. So if in these kinds of tournaments, we’re able to get some [wins] out of them, that’s huge for our rankings,” senior third baseman Emma Blauser said. “When it comes toward the end of the season, when they start to do regional rankings, these kinds of games start to come into play pretty massively. It’s definitely important to get on top pretty early.”
Blauser has been playing softball since she was 9-years- old, including playing all four years at Western. This will be her last season playing competitively.
“Being able to travel and play some of the best teams in our region is probably my favorite thing. Honestly just being on the road with my team, 22 of my best friends, is pretty fun. This last year is kind of bittersweet,” Blauser said.
For her last season, she is excited to make the most of it.
“I definitely just want to have fun and make it the best year yet,” Blauser said.
Due to weather, the team has only been able to practice outside a couple of times. It hasn’t has deterred their preparation for the tournament.
“A lot of our practices have been inside, either at the batting cage or the indoor soccer field. I think it’s helped us,” senior Lexie Levin said. “Once we hit the field and are actually playing, we’re just going to let loose.”
The Vikings concluded their 2015 season with a 30-18 record and are hoping to claim their first GNAC title since 2007.
“We have the talent, we have the trust, we have the friendship, [and] we have the bond,” Levin said. “We have everything that we need to win the tournament and advance to regionals.”
Levin has been playing softball since she was 8-years-old. She hit a .315 batting average with 11 doubles, six home runs, 40 RBI and a .554 slugging percentage. She was also one of two regular starters with a 1.000 fielding percentage.
“We really dominated our season last year [and] we went 30-18 with our record. We made it pretty far in the GNAC tournament; we [were] one game short of moving on,” Blauser said. “I feel like that’s one of the reasons why we got picked because we showed a lot of strong suits last year. We were really tough, offensively and defensively.”
Taylor Clark, also a senior, has been playing since she was 10. She concluded her 2015 season with a batting average of .375, a .708 slugging percentage and .900 fielding percentage.
This upcoming season brings big goals for the team, but one goal stands up above the rest.
“We’re definitely looking to make it out of the GNAC tournament. It is our biggest goal [and] definitely taking it game by game, not trying to dwell on the past or looking too far into the future,” Clark said.
This is a team that has many goals for the season, but it has never been a team that is not inclusive.
“When I came in as a freshman, I never felt on the outside, or I wasn’t a part of something,” Clark said. “Coming into college as a freshman, it’s really intimidating but having people like that around is really awesome.”
The first home game for the Vikings will be against Simon Fraser on Saturday Feb. 27, at noon.