Opener marks a new era for Vikes softball
The Vikes women’s softball team battled hard in their first home opener series on a sunny fall Saturday at Hyacinth Park. After dropping two games to the top ranked UBC Okanagan Heat, the Vikes lost their chance at redemption on Sunday due to rain cancellations. Head Coach Lori Zehr says the team is looking ahead to league playoffs, national championships, and to growing the young program.
The Vikes lost the first game 6-1, with UBCO establishing an early five-run lead. Errors riddled the second matchup on both sides with UVic tallying up eight fielding errors and UBCO five. The Vikes ended up losing the second game 10-6 despite racking up 12 hits during play.
The UVic softball team is newly part of the Western Collegiate Softball Association (WCSA), a league that stretches across western Canada and includes eight collegiate softball teams such as the University of Calgary Dinos and the University of Regina Cougars. The teams participate in league championship playoffs at the end of regular season play with the top two teams qualifying for the Canadian Collegiate Softball Association National Championships.
This season, the Vikes’ home opener series was scheduled just ahead of the league finals, something that Zehr believes will give her team an edge. “It’s great that we get to play the top team heading into playoffs, it’s going to put us in a really good position,” said Zehr in an interview with the Martlet. “We’re also not travelling for the weekend before playoffs, so we get to sleep in our own beds, which is going to be pretty helpful too.”
Sydney Wood, co-captain and outfielder for the Vikes, said although it was a tough weekend against the Heat, she believes that UVic can strive for a top three finish at the league finals held in the first weekend of October. “We’ve been competing well in the season, so I think that next weekend could go really well if we’re on our game.”
In 2019, its first year, the UVic softball team entered into the WCSA league in an exhibition season. The following year the Vikes were unanimously voted into the league; however, the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first season the Vikes are playing as full members of the WCSA.
“I was hearing from student athletes when I was coaching in the minor associations and they didn’t want to leave Victoria but they still wanted an opportunity to keep playing,” said Zehr when asked how the program started. “There have been women softball teams [at UVic] in the past, so it’s just a new era that we got going.”
The softball program operates as a competitive club team out of the Vikes Athletics and Recreation Department. This means the team trains similar to a varsity program and is governed by a league association but is funded by its players and through fundraising efforts. Despite this, the team was able to start up strong and attract solid players from the Island and beyond.
Co-captain and shortstop Devon Rees joined the UVic softball program in its first year of operation. “I was excited to play in Victoria where I grew up and I think it’s cool for younger girls to see a softball team at UVic that they can strive to play for and also go watch,” she said in an interview during the rain delay, the Vikes logo proudly displayed on her blue jacket.
The third-year psychology major hopes the team can play hard in the upcoming league finals.
“We just hope to play well as a team and play like how we know we can play. We’re a really good hitting team, so if we string our hits together we’ll do really well.”