By Caroline Ballard
Sports Information Intern
The Washington University in St. Louis softball team will honor its five seniors on May 5 prior to a doubleheader with New York University – Hera Tang, Anna McKee, Maggie Clapp, Mackenzie Gauden and Ashley Madsen.
The group has helped lead WashU to a 104-52 (.667) overall record in four seasons on the Danforth Campus. During this time the Bears won a pair of University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships and made three NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Class of 2018 reflected on the past four years with Sports Information Intern Caroline Ballard.
1.What made you choose WashU?
Hera Tang: I chose WashU because it allowed me to pursue all of my interests without forcing me to compromise on any of them. I was able to tackle the pre-med curriculum while double majoring, continuing my athletic career, pursuing research opportunities, and partaking in various community service endeavors. It didn't hurt that I got along well with the team too.
Anna McKee: I chose WashU because I wanted to go somewhere that would challenge me academically while also giving me the opportunity to play softball. I also fell in love with the close-knit culture of the team that I experienced on my campus visit and know that WashU was where I needed to be!
Maggie Clapp: I chose WashU because I wanted to be able to athletically compete at a high level and have the experience of learning at a highly ranked University. I think the ability to do undergraduate research here was something that was important to me, and there are a lot of talented faculty at WashU that I've been lucky to interact with.
Mackenzie Gauden: I wanted to challenge myself and knew Olin was an excellent business school. I also wanted to continue playing softball as long as possible, and WashU gave me the best opportunity to do both those things.
Ashley Madsen: The recruitment process is long and stressful and a lot of factors have to be considered. For me, it was obvious that WashU had a pristine reputation, and it offered me competitive play and unparalleled opportunities academically. However, the real deciding factor was the moment I met the team. This team, like no other I have seen, is truly a family that has made WashU the home away from home I now have as a senior.
2.) How do you balance your schedule between softball and school?
HT: It's been a work in progress! But I learned early on that I had to be as efficient with my time as possible and that I needed to make schedules to plan out my days.
AM:Balancing school and softball is a challenge but good time management and having a plan for getting things done ahead of time always helps me to stay on track with everything! I also think that keeping a positive attitude about meeting the challenges of both softball and school can help avoid feelings of being overwhelmed.
MC: I think communicating with professors has been really important to managing my schedule, and planning in advance so that I could take fewer credits in the spring semester so I'm not as stressed about completing coursework.
MG: There's no perfect formula – you just take things as they come and do what you can every day. Perspective is also important. If you're always approaching it as a constant struggle rather than a blessing, all the planning and organizing in the world won't save you … coffee does help, though.
AM: It definitely took some trial and error to figure out a good balance, however, keeping a detailed calendar and planning everything out in advance is definitely helpful to achieve success.
3.) Favorite Softball memory in your career so far?
HT: There's too many to pick from. Maybe the time I panicked and cut across the diamond against Principia my freshman year. It was the worst base running error of my entire career but it's the hardest I've ever made my entire team laugh to date.
AM: It is so hard to pick just one memory because there are so many good ones, but I would have to say my favorite was performing the original song our class wrote about the team freshman year on the sidewalk in front of chipotle in Florida. We worked so hard on writing the lyrics and it was maybe the single greatest performance HAMMMA has ever done.
MC: My favorite softball memory is probably all four years of bear idol on the first bus trip of the season. I think my sophomore year had some of the best performances.
MG: Our freshman year trip to Florida for the UAA tournament – all the way from getting stranded in Tifton, Ga., to learning the fight song, to HAMMA's amazing freshman song and skit, to the whole team singing Grillz on way into the hotel lobby, to declaring our own spring break after getting back and drinking Jason's Deli iced tea and lemonade on the seniors' balcony in Millbrook….and every one of the pizza parties along the way.
AM: My sophomore year we had a terrible rain storm before a regional game. The winds were so strong it blew our tarp up, and our entire left side of the field was underwater. We really wanted to play so we all went out as a team and thought we could fix it. After two hours of digging out moats, scooping up water, and using way too much diamond dry, it became apparent that the field would be unplayable. So, we decided to make the most out of the mess and went mud diving across the field. It took a week to get all the mud and diamond dry out of our hair, but it was worth it.
4.) What have you learned from head coach Michelle Venturella?
HT: I learned that being mentally tough is no less important than physically preparing yourself for this sport, if not more. I learned that no matter what other people are doing or whatever distractions we encounter, we always do things the right way and we always put the team first.
AM: Coach V has taught me the value of always giving 100 percent of what you have in everything that you do whether it be on the softball field or in other areas of my life. She has also helped me to realize the importance of mental conditioning not only as it applies to playing softball but also how it can help in everyday life to recognize those mental pitfalls that can hold you back from reaching your full potential.
MC: Over all of my time with the Bears, I've learned how to enjoy every moment of playing this sport and being with my teammates.
MG: I've learned to never be ingenuine, even when it's easier.
AM: Coach V has shown me to value the mental part of the game and to recognize how important it is to practice that aspect of the game. She has really taught me how to handle difficult and stressful situations on the field which I have been able to apply to my everyday life.
5.) What are your future plans upon graduation from WashU?
HT: I'll be working as a research technician in a lab here at WashU.
AM: After graduation I am adventuring around Europe with my teammate Hera Tang before I return to St. Louis to begin a position as an Associate Consultant for Maryville Technologies.
MC: Right now, I'm planning on going home (to Portland) for the summer, and then working in research for one or two years before applying to PhD programs in clinical psychology.
MG: I am moving to Lakeland, Fla., to work as an Area Manager for Amazon.
AM: Next year I will be attending law school.