By Caroline Ballard
Sports Information Intern
The Washington University in St. Louis softball team will honor its four seniors Saturday prior to its doubleheader against Brandeis University – Kenzie James, Hannah Mehrle, Halle Steinberg and Janet Taylor.
This group has helped lead the Bears to a 117-53 overall record, good for a 68.8 winning percentage. During this time the Bears won the 2014 and 2015 University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship and made three NCAA Tournament appearances.
"HEET" sat down with Sports Information Intern Caroline Ballard to discuss the past four years at WashU.
What made you choose to come to WashU?
Kenzie James: When I visited WashU in the summer of 2012 I immediately fell in love. The campus was beautiful and all the people I met were so friendly. Then, when I came back in the fall for my softball visit and met the team I knew WashU was the right place for me.
Hannah Mehrle: I chose to come to WashU for the school. Playing softball was a perk. I knew I wanted to be some sort of engineer, so I really liked that I would be able to focus on school and softball while at Wash U (and the nice dorms and food were nice perks as well!)
Halle Steinberg: I never thought I would end up at the same school as my dad, but once I did a little bit of research, I realized it could be the perfect fit. When I visited campus and stayed with the team my senior year of high school, I fell in love with the campus and the program as a whole. The opportunity to play for a national championship combined with the great academics made the decision easy.
Janet Taylor: When I visited fall of my senior year, WashU was the last college campus I visited and by the time I left my recruiting visit, I knew WashU was the perfect fit for me. The girls on the team were like family to one another and I knew I could be a part of that family. I loved the combination of being able to pursue a high level of academics with the opportunity to compete for a national championship on a beautiful campus.
How do you balance your schedule between softball and school?
KJ: Coming in freshman year it was definitely an adjustment balancing the much more rigorous academic schedule as well as the time consuming softball schedule. But I quickly figured out how to manage my time, sometimes having to stay up late after practices to get work done or study after morning practices instead of going back to sleep or taking a nap later in the day. Now, I honestly think I would be bored if I wasn't as busy as I am with both softball and school because I've gotten so used to it!
HM: This semester I am not in as hard of classes so its really easy to balance school and softball! The past three years though I tried to schedule as many labs (classes where I would have to spend a lot of time in the computer lab) in the fall, and I would use all the time I had, for example if I had 15 minutes between classes I would work on homework, so I would feel less overwhelmed.
HS: I struggled with this a lot as a freshman, and I still don't think I've figured out the right way to balance it all. But I think just being flexible and productive with the time I am given outside of softball has helped me a lot in getting my schoolwork done. I try to plan everything out a couple weeks in advance so I'm not so stressed when both softball and school get busy.
JT: Lots of color coding on my calendar. I have definitely learned how to manage my time these past four years and be able to compartmentalize when I'm at softball and when I need to focus on the problem set I'm working on or the exam I'm studying for.
What have you learned from playing for head coaches Leticia Pineda-Boutte and Michelle Venturella?
KJ: Throughout my career, my coaches have all taught me a lot not only about softball, but about life in general. This year, Coach V has devoted a lot of time to making the mental side of our game stronger. I've definitely gotten tougher mentally, even just becoming more aware of all of my emotions and thoughts, which is extremely helpful in just about everything in life.
HM: From playing for Coach Let, I learned that I always had room for improvement, she taught me that I could always perform better than my current 100 percent by practicing harder and getting better, she taught me never to settle. Coach V taught me that success isn't only physical, and that there are things I can do mentally to preform better as a player. She taught me that the skills that I have learned over the past 15 years playing softball can be applied to better other aspects of my life as well (perfect timing lol).
HS: Coach Let and Coach V have both taught me so many things, both on and off the field. Coach Let really made me appreciate the little things that happen, and to not dwell on the things that are out of my control. Coach V has really helped me to build off that, helping me to stay within every moment on the field by taking everything pitch by pitch.
JT: From Coach Let, I learned so much about perspective in the sense that going to WashU and being a student-athlete are incredible opportunities. She also taught me to celebrate the small victories in softball and in life. From Coach V, I have learned what it means to be present in each and every moment and that you can't let the fish hooks of life overwhelm you.
What is your favorite softball memory at WashU?
KJ: I think it's really hard to pick one single favorite memory from softball because there's never a dull moment when our whole team is together. From photo shoots with the tulips in Pella, Iowa, to getting stuck on the side of the highway in Tifton, Georgia, to the skits and karaoke we have every year, I've made so many memories with the girls on this team that I will never forget.
HM: My favorite softball memory at Wash U was the first weekend I actually got to play my freshman year, I think I hit a home run and made a diving catch my first game. I just wanted so badly to prove to everyone that I was good enough to start. And I think I did an okay job of that hahaha.
HS: It's really hard to choose just one, but winning the UAA Championship my sophomore year is up there. Or the time we got stranded on the highway. Or when I broke my face. All of these are times I will never forget with some of my best friends.
JT: There are so many amazing memories but one that sticks out is after we won the UAA Championship our sophomore year, we blasted "Grillz" by Nelly and danced through the hotel lobby.
What are your future plans upon graduation from WashU?
KJ: This fall I will start graduate school at Northwestern University. I will be in the Masters of Science program in Speech, Language, and Learning in pursuit of becoming a speech-language pathologist.
HM: My plans after graduation are to go to Case Western Law School in Cleveland. I am going to study patent law, so eventually I'll be able to use my law and computer science degree to patent computer science inventions!
HS: I will be moving to Kansas City, Missouri and working for Cerner Corporation as a Business Consultant starting in August.
JT: This summer I'm going home to Boston to spend time with my family. Then, I will be returning to St. Louis to work for Accenture as a Consulting Analyst.