Softball team thrives under new leadership


Pitcher Hailey De La Vara ’17 winds up during a league game against Windward. Credit: Adam Yu/Chronicle

Carina Marx

The varsity softball team, coming off of a rough season last year with a 2-15-1 overall record and a 0-8 league record under previous program head Claire Rietmann-Grout, has had a much better season with a 2-4 overall record this year under new program head Melanie Williams.

“None of our early preseason games this year were really much of a struggle; we beat most of the teams pretty handily,” outfielder Cypress Toomey ’19 said. “As we started to get closer to the season we began to see that we were going to be playing teams of higher caliber and couldn’t slack off. Since the preseason, we have lost a couple of hard-fought games which I think really increased our mental toughness and focus.”

Rietmann-Grout left suddenly with no explanation and no notice to the team in fall of 2015, moving to San Francisco.

The team was told that Rietmann-Grout “couldn’t fully commit [to the program] and give it her all,” before she left. Williams then had to pick up after that with a muddled and confused team, shaken after last year’s season, and bring them together again.

“Coach Williams certainly has a different style of coaching than [Rietmann-Grout], and I think that it has contributed to our team being more hardworking, but overall our improvements are due to just having a very solid, driven team this year,” outfielder Marina Weidmann ’17 said. “The program is definitely improving, as Coach Williams is a very good coach who is determined to help us be the best team we can be. She challenges us a lot, but ultimately knows it’s for the best.”

Along with major changes in the program, six new, experienced freshmen were added to the team. This gives the team more options on the field and more versatile players to play.

The girls have also been working on creating a better and stronger bond than what they had last year, so that communication on the field is smooth and effortless.

“Our team is closer this year, helping with our record,” pitcher Ashley Waco ’18 said. “I think the program now has overall improved with communication between players and coaches. We have a better ability to work together as a whole program.”

Last year, the only games they won were against Village Christian on March 26 and Sierra Canyon on April 25.

The biggest loss they suffered was 18-0 against Marlborough April 23.

However, they started off this season sweeping the Valentine’s Day Tournament. Waco hit the walkoff single to win the championship game of that match.

Though much more successful this year than last year, most players on the team admit that there is still room for improvement.

“We need to work on making the routine plays and getting out of rough innings by just picking each other up and being good teammates,” pitcher Hailey de la Vara ’17 said. “Mentally, we need to focus on calming our nerves before the games and playing how we do in practices.”

With a combination of starting team weight room sessions, practices and preseason games early, and team bonding exercises such as team sleepovers, the varsity softball team is posed to see much more success in the coming season.

The team believes that CIF playoffs or championship goals are not out of the question.

“Coach Williams has told us for months that if we work hard and train well we will be unstoppable,” outfielder Kelly Loeb ’16 said. “The addition of new talent and the confidence our coach placed in us have allowed us to believe.”