March 13, 2020 was a day circled long in advance for Nebraska softball fans, players and coaching staff. It was the home opener, a day dedicated to a new season of promise. A day before the game, the season was cancelled.
Now the team has returned to action, but there are still steps to be taken.
Despite the lack of competition, the softball team has been working through the fall season with team scrimmages.
“It's been really interesting because it almost feels like we're in a different phase now,” head coach Rhonda Revelle said. “We've been able to practice which has been great. The whole next step now is still interesting. We don't know what spring looks like and we don't have a schedule but for now it’s really invigorating just to be back on the field again.”
The team set up four intrasquad scrimmages this fall, with three games already completed. Despite not being actual competition against other teams, the Huskers can agree that being back and working is still important.
“The starting season honestly has been so great given the circumstances,” senior outfielder Tristen Edwards said. “It's great being back with everybody and seeing all the new faces. Not being able to see everybody and be around the team for several months was difficult but now we’re getting back into the groove of it, which has been a lot of fun.”
After the cancellation, all NCAA softball players were given an extra year of eligibility. Despite the challenges, balancing COVID-19 restrictions and the fall scrimmages has helped the team become stronger.
“We haven't really had the opportunity to do it like this before,” Edwards said. “It's really brought to light a lot of things that we've been working on. Pushing through quarantine has really brought a lot of our work to light and it's been great.”
Along with the restrictions, the team also has eight freshmen to get the roster up to 22 players. Despite the number and the circumstances, the freshmen have proven to be very committed to the field.
“They're very good listeners and learners,” Revelle said. “They want to be coached, they're sponges for information, they're hardworking, high character. They're here to work to get better every day, and help the team be successful and I just like that collective philosophy that they all seem to have.”
Of course, the freshmen are also figuring out how to balance school and softball. With COVID, the ability to lock in on every task has become more difficult.
“The biggest challenge is staying focused,” freshman Billie Andrews said. “Trying to manage our school time and practice time during COVID has been tough. I'm just a freshman trying to figure out how to get everything going here.”
The lack of competition has proven to be difficult, but one thing the team has done to ameliorate these circumstances is by increasing the atmosphere of scrimmages — making them feel more like actual games.
“As each week goes by our players feel some of those same emotions that you feel on actual game day,” Revelle said. “Every week there's a few more people that are watching the scrimmage from outside the stadium. We had an announcer in our last game. We're playing the tunnel music and we've got an umpire, so it’s starting to feel more and more like an actual game, which is great.”
Whatever the spring season will become, the main focus the team has is continuing the climb and finishing the season in a better place than where they started.
“I want us to live up to what we've been talking about and leave the jersey in a better place than how we found it,” Edwards said. “Go through everyday living up to what we said that we wanted to accomplish. However this season ends, if we do those things I'm going to be really proud of the team.”