After narrowly missing the playoffs last year, SFU softball begins their 2017 campaign as they travel to Hawaii this weekend for four pre-season double-headers. Reflecting on last season, head coach Mike Renney believes his team was just a few steps away from a playoff berth.
“I think that last season, if anything, we probably missed peaking by about two weeks and that probably made the difference. We were coming off a marginal season the year before and probably took a bit longer than we’d like to get the belief we needed.
“There was also a bit of us running out of gas at the end – we had a few rainouts which meant we had to play back-to-back-to-back right after the exam period, so our athletes were both physically and mentally exhausted.
With six seniors having departed the softball program at the end of last season, all eyes will be on experienced players such as Tori Belton, Kendra Goodman, and Robyn Mogavero to lead the team into the new campaign. Renney’s team has also been boosted with a promising freshman class, with new faces like Jada Yeo and Courtney De Adder coming into the program for 2017.
“Typically, we rely on the athletes we have in house that have been waiting for their chance off the bench, so it’s not too common for a freshman to see a lot of playing time. Having said that, we also have some spots that are wide open. Invariably, we’ll have some opportunities to see freshmen in those positions,” Renney said.
“I think we’ve got some very good young talent, but you can’t teach experience — you have to live it. We don’t want to throw [the young players] into the deep end too soon; we want to get them transitioned to university demands and the style of play. High school to university is also a big jump academically, so there’s always a transition period.”
Like a number of their Clan contemporaries, the team’s preparations for the new season have been affected by the record-breaking snowfall seen in the past few months. Renney admitted the winter has posed a unique set of challenges as he looks to ready his team for their opening matches.
“I can’t remember a worse winter [in his time at SFU],” said Renney.
“I think we’ve got some very good young talent, but you can’t teach experience — you have to live it.”
“Our preparation at this time of year means we’ve [been] outside for a good eight to 10 practices at this time of year. Because of the snow, we’ve been relying on the gymnasiums in the early hours of the morning, because that’s the only time we can get the facilities. Our typical day right now starts at 6 a.m., and the players are in classes by 9 or 10 a.m.
“Our infielders are seeing hardwood bounces and they’re about to play on dirt in a few days. Our outfielders are seeing fly balls no higher than the roof of the gym, and I can assure you they’re going to see balls that’ll travel significantly higher. The Christmas snow also caused our batting cage to collapse, so it’s literally been a perfect storm for us.”
However, Renney insisted his side will be fully prepared for their upcoming conference schedule, beginning the season with a trip to Hawaii this weekend.
“The first thing we’re going to do when we get to Hawaii is get outside and get our infielders on the dirt and our outfielders on the grass to get them familiarised with the environment. Having said that, we’re behind the eight-ball from the start. We always want to have success, but our success won’t necessarily be measured in wins or losses; it’ll be measured in growth and development.”
The conference kicks off with a home doubleheader against Northwest Nazarene University at Beedie Field on March 3, and Renney believes his team is more than capable of being better than last year.
“It’s challenging. I know every one of our rivals is outside right now on the grass, and we’re not. It’s one of the challenges of living on a mountain, but it’s nothing we haven’t overcome before, and it’s an obstacle we have to adapt to.
“One of the things we always want to shoot for is a playoff berth. You battle to get in the playoffs, then you let the cards fall as they may. With our athletes, I fully expect we’ll be competitive. If we’re able to get up to speed quick enough, then we’ll be OK.”