By Derek Noehren, Contributor
Despite the UNO softball team posting an impressive 27-5 record so far this season, the team’s toughest opponent thus far has been mother nature.
The Mavs have had a total of eight games cancelled this season due to inclement weather, all of which were home games.
A major worry for head coach Jeanne Scarpello is missed opportunities to play in front of friends and family, especially for the upperclassmen.
“You concern yourself with the seniors, because this is their last hoorah, and for them I try to get as many games as possible,” Scarpello said. “You don’t want to lose them because this is their last shot to play”
Despite the unexpected cancellations including a stretch that saw six of seven games wiped out, it hasn’t affected the team’s play on the field. Coach Scarpello credits her team’s dedication for their continued success despite the distractions.
“This group is very devoted and committed to be successful,” Scarpello said. “The fact that we’re 25-4 in our second year in the transition is a huge tribute to these ladies. If you come to any practice, they’re here an hour before and an hour after.”
Junior Pitcher, Dana Elsasser has been the Mavs’ ace once again this season, posting a record of 15-4 with a 1.54 ERA. Elsasser knows the team can’t control the weather and, like her coach, attributes this year’s team chemistry as a driving force for staying focused.
“We can’t change mother nature, so we’re just rolling with the punches,” Elsasser said. “Having a team full of girls can sometimes gets a little scary, but we’re like sisters. We’re all really close, so it’s easy to play when you mesh so well together.”
Another leader for the Mavs this season has been junior Catcher and Infielder, Amber Lutmer who is leading the Mavs with 10 homeruns this season while batting .316. Lutmer also sees a unique chemistry with this year’s team.
“You know on this team if you make a mistake, your teammates aren’t going to say anything negative about it,” Lutmer said. “This team meshes so well, and it makes it so much easier to play on the field together.”
Being a team situated in the Midwest in an outdoor sport that begins in early February means cold weather and lots of travel early on. The cold weather and abundant cancellations have sparked conversation about possible ways to avoid the rigors that cold-weather teams go through.
“They have talked about it a little, and for us it would mean starting our season later,” Scarpello said.
Scarpello understands that media giant, ESPN, has a major influence concerning when they play, but thinks it is great for the sport.
“We’re under the gun, in a good way, of ESPN, and when they want our regionals and college world series on television,” Scarpello said. “It’s actually more popular right now to watch softball on ESPN than even college baseball.”
Scarpello believes the exposure gained from ESPN is invaluable to the future of softball.
“We want to make sure the sport keeps growing as well as the popularity and ESPN has helped do a tremendous job with that,” Scarpello said. “Kids want to play when it’s on TV and there are role models. So to get the best athletes in our sport versus soccer or other sports, it’s important.”
The continued transition from Division II to Division I has been another obstacle the Mavs have dealt with well, and they have embraced the role as the newest member of their conference.
“I kind of like being the underdog,” Lutmer said. “People probably come in thinking we’re going to show them what the Summit League is about, and then we come in and show them who we are as a team.”
Elsasser shares the sentiment of wanting to show the rest of the league who the Mavs are and what they are about.
“From their standpoint they don’t really know who were are and might think we’ll be a little timid and just be testing the waters,” Elsasser said. “I think most teams get surprised by us.”
Coach Scarpello is on board with her players and also isn’t shying away from trying to make an immediate impact in the Summit League.
“If you set yourself at the top, especially in this first year, you’ll start getting some rivalries pretty quick,” Scarpello said. “They’ll start hating you pretty quick, and I like that.”
With success comes angst from other teams, and it’s something Scarpello wants her team to embrace and strive for.
“That’s actually something we stress here is to be the team people hate, not because we’re not classy, but because we win.”