Seton Hall softball’s 2019 shortcomings are driving force to 2020 motivation.
Almost every student has felt the heartbreak of finishing a course with an 89 or missing out on an A by a tenth of a percentage point. That same heartbreak was multiplied tenfold for the Seton Hall softball team last year when they missed out on a place in the Big East tournament by .003. For the exiting seniors, it was a sour note to end their college softball career. However, for the returning players, it is the driving force behind their motivation to make the most of this upcoming season.
“We were .3% away from qualifying,” senior outfielder Haley Arteaga said. “It’s something we talk about a lot. Every single time we step onto the field, we know that game could be the small difference in a season. We know to take every ball with intent, have powerful swings and lift more in the weight room because that could be the difference.”
Softball is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one, and no team knows the fine line that separates a successful season from an unsuccessful one as well as the Pirates. The “what if” of last season is a frustrating thought that filled the entire team’s mind at the end of last season, but it is not an excuse they rely on to justify last year’s post-season shortcomings.
“A lot of the time, these games come down to who’s going to crack first, and this team is not going to crack,” head coach Paige Smith said. “Their motto this year is ‘fail hard.’ Don’t make a mistake at half speed, don’t make a mistake being scared. It’s kind of fun because with nine freshmen, they don’t really know what it’s like to be scared.”
The “fail hard” motto was a by-product of a more player-led fall training period with Coach Smith out on maternity leave. Returning players instilled their motivation for success into the incoming class, and the freshmen provided the team with nine fresh personalities that have reminded the upperclassmen about the joy that playing softball brings them. Smith added that the freedom of not having her lead the lines in the offseason is what players and coaches alike needed to grow as individuals and a unit, preparing them perfectly for her return.
“I think I can learn from that by giving them more freedom because I’m coming back refreshed,” Smith said. “Everyone is looking around like ‘who is this lady yelling at me?’ I’ve seen people step up that I’ve been waiting years for to do that. Whether it just means their pulling the team together when a drill’s not going a certain way, or someone just needs a baked good to make them feel good. This team is starting to figure it out.”
After three years at Seton Hall, both Arteaga and Camp feel that this group of players has the it factor that will push them in the Big East and potentially drive them to an NCAA Tournament spot. The Pirates have not stepped foot in the tournament since 2005 when they made it to the Ann Arbor Super Regional, but the confidence surrounding the camp has everyone feeling like 2020 is going to be their year.
“I’d say it’s our passion,” Camp said. “I’m extremely passionate, so it’s something I notice in other players. We had a meeting last week where we asked ourselves ‘what is our end goal?’ We said we wanted to make it to the NCAA Tournament. ‘How are we going to do this?’ and everyone collaborating and making steps on how we’re going to do this together.”
Off the back of an exasperating end to the 2019 season, this Seton Hall team is strolling into 2020 with a rejuvenated passion and newfound fearlessness. The desire to go out with a bang within their core group of seniors has trickled down into the underclassmen, and the freshmen have assimilated to the consistent, relentless nature that has become the team’s identity. This team is driven, and failure is not an option.
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter at @JustinSousa99.