Coach Martin reflects on trying season, bright future
Emily DeFazio | Friday, May 21, 2021
The Belles’ softball team wrapped up their spring season on Friday after playing a schedule consisting entirely of conference opponents. They finished with a final record of 13-17, playing a 30-game season as opposed to the standard 40-game lineup. Head coach Kelli Martin said the record does not necessarily do the team justice, however.
“I really do think that we played better than what our record speaks for,” Martin said.
The team’s 2021 graduates are graduate student third baseman Alyssa Gutierrez, senior outfielder Sydney Swartz and senior infielder JoAnna Keilman. All three players hail from South Bend, bringing competition and camaraderie with them to Saint Mary’s.
“They’re the local group,” Martin said. “They were rivals a little bit, and sometimes teammates, in high school.”
The team is set apart by its overall cohesiveness. Though they are losing a decent amount of leadership this year, the group largely consists of underclassmen who have already formed bonds with each other. Martin hopes to develop the group during their first couple of years in order to have their hard work eventually pay off, hopefully leading to a regional bid in the near future.
“We already have freshmen that are naturally leaders, and they’re kind of coming out,” Martin said. “That’s cool to see.”
COVID-19 proved to be a challenge, even as the team’s practice schedule remained relatively stable. Martin mentioned that the players had a large workload in the fall, with some struggling to readjust to the quantity of assignments after being virtual for the previous spring. This unexpected challenge led to several students dropping from the team in order to focus on their studies. After speaking to coaches in the NCAA, Martin said this has been a trend among other teams as well.
Despite the struggles of adjusting back to in-person classes and responsibilities, Martin hopes to build off of the connections made among the players this year.
“I guess my plan is just really trying to cultivate [the friendships between one another],” Martin said. “I think that that’s gonna really help these girls grow because athletically, they have the skills, and then this is just going to set them apart of just trying to constantly cultivate that culture that we want to have.”