April 18, 2020 — the day the Lehigh softball team was set to begin its regular season series against rival Boston University. The date had been circled on players’ calendars.
The rivalry with the Terriers stretches back to 2014 when Boston University left the American East Conference and joined the Patriot League, which had, for a long time, been dominated by Lehigh and head coach Fran Troyan.
In the 25 years Troyan has coached the Mountain Hawks, Lehigh has won 14 Patriot League regular season titles and nine Patriot League Tournament titles.
Since 2014, when the Terriers entered the league, either Lehigh or Boston University has won every regular season championship and Patriot League Tournament Championship, completely dominating the rest of the league.
In 2017, when the senior class were all freshmen, the two teams met in the Patriot League Tournament Finals for the first time, and the rivalry between the two programs grew.
After sweeping Boston University in the regular season, which included two of the games ending because of the mercy rule, Lehigh lost to the Terriers in the round robin of the Patriot League Tournament.
The team still qualified for the championship series but needed to defeat Boston twice in one day to win the Patriot League tournament.
In dramatic fashion the team did just that, winning 1-0 in the first game and 4-3 in the second.
Christine Campbell, ‘17, a senior at the time who is now an assistant coach for the team, pitched two phenomenal complete games, shutting out Boston University in Game One and only surrendering three runs in game two.
Current-senior infielder Reva Alderman said she remembers that series from freshman year like it was yesterday.
“I can’t even put into words how incredible the whole moment was, coming back and beating Boston (University) twice on the championship day. (It was) an all around full team effort,” Alderman said. “It was definitely one of my most cherished moments here at Lehigh.”
Fellow senior Mary-Hannah Smith said the game was sheer determination by all members of the team.
She said no matter what, the team had developed the mindset they were going to win those games.
“It was a feeling like no other,” Smith said. “It was probably the best game of my life — even to this day.”
Smith had a remarkable series as a freshman, hitting the only RBI in Game One against Boston University and then scoring a run in game two.
“I had nothing to lose, and that mindset helped me,” Smith said.
The Mountain Hawks followed up that championship season with two more trips to the final series against Boston University. Unfortunately for Lehigh in 2018 and 2019, Boston University had the upper hand in the playoffs and won both tournament championships.
The three-year saga was destined to continue into the 2020 season, with the senior class looking to even the slate and win one final tournament championship against Boston University.
“In my opinion, it was going to be a total knockdown, dragged out series with Boston (University) that we were supposed to be playing this weekend (April 18), and the same thing was going to hold true in the Patriot League Tournament,” Troyan said.
Though April 18 of this season came and went without the anticipated matchup being played due to the coronavirus, the rivalry will live on.
Smith and her senior teammates’ careers ended before they had one final shot at redemption.
“It’s a huge loss to not even get to play that out and see how it would have turned out, because I truly believe we were going to win it,” Smith said.
Since her freshman year, Smith has become one of the more decorated softball players under Troyan. She was on the All-Tournament team as a freshman and junior, All-Patriot League Second Team as a freshman and sophomore and All-Patriot League First Team as a junior.
Her accomplishments in three seasons were notable, but Troyan said she was more impressed with Smith’s leadership than her play.
“Right when she stepped on campus she became the heart and soul of our team,” Troyan said. “She has an incredible spirit, an incredible energy.”
Although Smith and the rest of her class didn’t get to experience the senior year they wanted, Troyan said their impact on the program will last longer than the time they spent in Bethlehem.
“We have had some tremendous leadership throughout the history of our program, but as a group top to bottom I would be hard pressed to say that there has been a better class, total class, of senior leaders,” Troyan said. “I am proud of all the work they have done to build our culture within the softball program, and it’s just a shame they didn’t get to see the fruits of their labor.”