Softball team wins national championship

Look at all those smiling faces. Courtesy of WCSA

Underfunded squad takes it all the way

The University of Regina Cougars softball team may be the best team at the U of R. Over the past seven seasons the Cougars team has finished either first or second, save for last year when the playoffs were cancelled in the WCSA (Western Collegiate Softball Association). The Cougars have won two straight championships and won three of the last four as well. Led by Head Coach Andrea Wolf, the team has excelled in the Western Collegiate Softball Association. Further, this year the University of Regina Cougars are your Canadian Collegiate Softball Association Champions.

The team went 12-5 during the regular season, for the most part dominating in every win. The Cougars five losses were by a combined 11 runs, while the Cougars 12 wins produced a plus-87 run differential. The league consists of eight different teams across western Canada: University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan, Briercrest; University of Calgary, SAIT, University of Lethbridge, University of British Columbia-Okanagan, and University of Victoria. The Cougars only lost five games this past regular season with two losses to Calgary (by one and three runs) and the  U of S(by 2 runs both times), then they lost to UBC-O once (by three runs). Which says a lot about the dominance that the team played with this season with a combined run differential of plus-75 they were easily the best team in the WCSA.

Keely Graf plays catcher and first base for the Cougars and she spoke about the dominance that the team showed this season.

“Definitely our team chemistry. Our team knows when to have fun, but we also know when to be serious and I think that’s a key component to being a competitive athlete. We are also a very athletic group of girls who put in the time and effort at practice and that practice was definitely noticeable on the field”.

Certainly, a team that has such a dominant run must have something special about them, when you think of championship teams, there is always a unique trait or characteristic that stands out. So what made this Cougar team the best in Canada? Graf thinks she has an idea.

“I have never been a part of such a special group of girls. Not only does each and every girl have the same passion for the sport as I do but out of this team came lifelong friendships that I know are just more than on the field. I think what made our team unique was how much fun we had both on and off the field. Every so often we would get together and do activities to bond and this bond transferred onto the field which I think was special for all of my teammates”.

Interestingly, what Graf seems to be talking about is group cohesion. Group cohesion has been studied extensively in the literature as being a key factor in group performance. Cohesive groups generally have more positive outcomes, increased motivation and morale and commitment to group goals (Cleirigh & Greaney, 2014). This gives some researched support for Graf’s observations of her group and the bond that they were able to build through the season.

As mentioned earlier this is a team that has one back-to-back years in WCSA play, however this year the team also won nationals.  So, what made this team different than the one in 2017?

“The one major difference that I recognize from 2017 to this year is definitely our team chemistry. Everyone on the team this year was there for a purpose and we all wanted to be National Champions again, which made us focus and give it our all to achieve our goal. I believe that without team chemistry, comfort, and some fun, no team can truly be successful and I’m glad we met our goal”.

Keely reinforced the fact that the team cohesion this year was certainly special. But does that mean that they coasted throughout the entire year? Their run differential says it was smooth sailing all year, but this was no undefeated team, so surely there were some obstacles.

“As for playoffs, I think our team cleaned up our game pretty well and everything came together and that is what made us a dominant team. As for earlier in the season, we definitely struggled putting our bats, our base running, and our defence together all at once for a dominating performance. After each weekend we discussed what we needed to work on and from there we bared down at practice and got it done. Our team definitely hit our peak at the right time and that motivation and intensity carried us through playoffs and gave us our National Championship title”.

Moving forward this team will look to repeat as national champions, they have discovered the immense gratification of reaching the pinnacle in their domain and they all want to repeat. What is happening next year that can make a difference in the repeat run?

“After this season we do lose a couple of key players who were big hitters in our lineup and great defensive players on the field, but I think this team can come back and do it again. Two years in a row we had girls who give it their all, who cheered when they weren’t playing, and everyone contributed to the win in their own way I think not only is skill a big factor, but the amount of hear you have plays a role as well”.

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