“Strike three, and it’s gone” will be heard very soon at newly renovated Ruth Podbielski Field starting March 5 for the IUP women’s softball team.

The Crimson Hawks will be swinging a series against their rivals to start off the season against, Slippery Rock. They will play a doubleheader on both March 5 and 6.

After Slippery Rock, they will play California University of Pennsylvania the following weekend and then have a date with Mercyhurst the week after. With some big games coming up, how prepared are the Hawks for the season quickly approaching and what did they do?

“The pandemic had challenges we faced, but we did many Zoom calls in spring 2020 to talk and chat as a team,” coach Shawna Bellaud said. “As far as training, the team was given different ideas of what they could do at home with what was open.”

Luckily for athletics, technology like Zoom facilitates communication, which is one of the most crucial things to do as a college team. Any kind of training is also very crucial to success, whether that is watching old film or going back over old training regimens.

Like any student-athlete, everybody is looking forward to their upcoming season. Bellaud and the team are looking forward to competition again.

“The sense of normalcy to be on the field again as a team is exciting,” she said. “Having the student-athletes get to do what they love is what I am most looking forward to.”

Meghan Grill (freshman, psychology) also was looking very passionate towards the season as a freshman herself.

“The biggest thing I am looking forward to this season is the ability to compete,” Grill said. “The team and I have worked hard during the off-season, given our current situation. It is going to be exciting to apply our skills and seeing the progress we have made.

“Our team has a lot of fun during practice, and we are ready to take that energy to the field.”

That’s why students play sports: They have that driven and hearted passion for it, and nothing is better than seeing a player back in action from where it all started. The women’s team is going to have a roster this season with a healthy mix of freshman and veteran talent.

This will benefit the team tremendously as it adds a sense of wisdom and guidance.

“We have great leaders that the underclassmen can look up towards,” Bellaud said. “It is great to give our squad depth that has not been there in the past.”

The younger core will be able to model their older teammates and pick up tips and tricks from them. Just like the roster of a team has an impact on they can perform, the schedule can be a convincing factor as well and certain opponents can stick out.

“I would say going into this season we are looking at everyone with the same respect,” Bellaud said. “The pandemic has made challenges for each university, and we are just going out there to play our game.”

The Hawks have the perfect mindset, as every team during this pandemic has faced challenges and obstacles they had to overcome.

The season for the Hawks will have all kinds of talent that they will face and struggles they will encounter, but they do look to see themselves at a good spot.

“If the pandemic allows us, I feel confident with this group of female student-athletes to put us at the top of our division,” Bellaud said.

The pandemic is something that is going to still be a factor for a while yet, but if things go as planned, the Crimson Hawks will look for high expectations which is the biggest reason why Hawk Nation has superior student-athletes.

For newer players like Grill and the rest of the freshmen, the pandemic is the biggest challenge they have faced as a college athlete is their first year.

Being a Hawk means having that superior mindset, so what did the freshmen Hawks learn?

“One thing I have learned throughout this experience is the importance of appreciation,” Grill said. “As someone who graduated during the pandemic, I missed the opportunity to play my senior year of softball.

“As I entered college, I developed a deeper love for the game, my teammates and the opportunity to play. I have learned to appreciate and compete during every practice like it could be my last. This mindset has helped my coaches, my teammates, and I develop a fire that I look forward to seeing in the upcoming season.”

With Grill’s words of wisdom in mind, now is time to dig out the baseball gloves and hats, and you might want to bring the shades out as the Crimson Hawks’ season will be bright.

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