The 2020 pandemic stalled sports in all levels of competition. Professional sports and Division 1 programs were among the fastest organizations to return back with protocols that claimed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Soon after, CIF allowed full competition in January of 2021 to high schools in California.
While the process of returning to athletics occured to the high schools of California and in the pros, one group was stalled: the Division III athletes who compete for national championships year after year. High school graduates from the 2020 class may have been pessimistic about competing at the collegiate level, as upcoming seasons were delayed until the 2021 – ‘22 school year. Many seniors at the time asked themselves if it would be worth paying another year of tuition in order to fulfill one last season in their desired sport.
Second-year Faith Zavala was among one of the athletes from the 2020 high school class: a Whittier resident herself, whose high school senior season was canceled due to the start of COVID-19. Almost two full years have passed since then, and, now, she is ready to make her mark in purple and gold.
Focused now more than ever, Zavala had this to say when asked about missed opportunities being factors towards her motivation on succeeding at the collegiate level: “I would say it plays a huge part in me wanting to win the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference [SCIAC] tournament for softball. This year is a chance for my team to win the SCIAC tournament again for our school, and it’ll be even better this time around, since most of us missed our seasons last year and some the year prior.”
Then came the ‘okay:’ the SCIAC conference made a commitment for all sports to return in the 2021 – ‘22 season. Sports from across the SCIAC conference waited two whole years for a chance to compete. Fifth-year students now have the opportunity to show athletic improvement during the prolonged, gloomy offseason, and second-year students received the opportunity to finally begin their collegiate athlete career.
With Fall sports concluded, their first season spent battling the COVID-19 pandemic, Spring sports are making noise with early success throughout all of SCIAC — the most notable sport being Softball.
As of now, there are five Softball teams in SCIAC over 500: Chapman University, La Verne, Pomona-Pitzer, University of Redlands, and, of course, Whittier College. The Poets had their season opener against Puget Sound and ended the night with two wins over the Loggers. When seeing the opening games in retrospect, we can detect a common theme: athletes from all years played their part in bringing home back-to-back wins for Whittier.
In game one, the upperclassmen led the charge with hits from fourth-year Brianna Magee and third-year Kelly Monroy; through the exciting first inning, second-year Emily Adkinson stepped up, scoring her first run in her first game as a Poet. The Poets finished game one in a blowout win, 6 – 1.
The second game told a different story, as every athlete knows the difficulty in beating the same opponent twice. The Poets would be first to score during the second inning, but the Loggers quickly responded on the top of the third. As the Poets scored in both the fourth and fifth inning, the game progressed, and Whittier College took home another win with a score of 3 – 2.
Among those three runs, one was by first-year Sara Luna. As the first-year Poet gives us her thought process coming home, a theme of high standards surrounded her statement: “When I scored, I didn’t think anything of it other than that’s another run on the board to help us win. I’ve always expected myself to play the way I know how to, regardless of being a freshman or not. Since I am a freshman, I know I have to prove that I’m just as reliable, and I know the girls know that I am.”
The Whittier College Softball team is currently 3 – 1, splitting their series with Linfield College last Saturday, Feb. 19.
The Poets have had success in the past, reaching the postseason tournament in and ultimately competing in the NCAA Regionals before falling short against Linfield. With success before the pandemic, followed by a two year hiatus due to COVID-19, this team looks more prepared in comparison to the 2019 season. In contrast to starting off slow in the ‘19 – ‘20 season (1 – 4), this team is overcoming other opponents while actively dealing with an ongoing pandemic.
Expectations are high for this group of teammates, students, and young women. With the first SCIAC season following the pandemic’s start, your WC Softball Team strives to make history — not just with a SCIAC championship, but in retaining a level of respect from other universities, who should see the Poets as a national contender of winning out on the NCAA Regionals.
Featured Image: Courtesy of wcpoets.com