In a normal season, the Lehigh softball plays around 50-60 games but, due to COVID-19, they will be playing a 32-game regular season in 2021.
Lehigh will open up their season with a double-header against Sacred Heart on Feb. 28. They were originally scheduled to play Fordham on Feb. 28, but the Rams could not compete due to COVID-19 cases within their program.
The players are eager to get out on the field since it has been 358 days since their last game. The team was in Arizona at the Grand Canyon University Invitational when the NCAA canceled their season.
Despite the protocols that teams are dealing with this year, senior pitcher Lainey Stephenson said practice feels surprisingly normal. Stephenson said they follow all mask wearing and social distancing protocols and practice in pods to ensure safety is a priority.
The team also has assigned drivers for practice to make sure they are staying in their small groups in case someone is to test positive.
“Our day-to-day goals are staying as healthy as we can and get better every day, so we are at our peak when the Patriot League Tournament comes around,” said assistant coach Christine Campell.
The team hasn’t let coronavirus interfere with their goal of winning the Patriot League.
“I think one thing that keeps us motivated is each other,” Stephenson said. “This year is definitely more challenging and more strenuous than any other. However, we are all in it together and we are all trying to make the most of it.”
While dealing with a shortened season is not ideal, most collegiate teams are in a similar position. Campbell said she thinks the pandemic will even out the competition.
The team’s toughest opponents this year will be Boston University and Army, but they’re expecting stiff competition against every team in the Patriot League. Last season, Boston University finished 14-8, Army finished 14-9, and Lehigh finished 8-9 before playing any league games.
“Last year looked promising for us winning a Patriot League Championship, and all of us are disappointed we couldn’t see that through due to COVID-19,” Stephenson said. “Those of us who experienced that are hungry for another chance to play.”
With five freshmen joining the team this season, along with talented upperclassmen, the Mountain Hawks are confident in their ability to bring home a title.
Freshman catcher Amanda Greaney said the roster is focusing on team chemistry and being comfortable together on the field with the limited time they’ve had to practice together.
Over winter break, the team worked out by themselves in preparation for the season. After much uncertainty leading up to a decision about the season, they are now practicing as normal.
“We’re practicing five times a week and lifting once a week, so it’s nice to see all the pieces coming together,” Greaney said.
The team is scheduled to play Seton Hall on March 7 after their first competition against Sacred Heart.