Down at Bell Field, the women’s softball team continues to cheer each other on while jamming out to music. The team is young this season, with no seniors and only four juniors on the roster. They’ve only played two teams as of Feb. 26 — University of Puget Sound and Lewis & Clark College — but Coach Kelliner Croushore isn’t too concerned with the team’s low scoring so far.
“We had a tough start, but I equate that to nerves,” Croushore said. “We have a lot of good stuff going for us, and I can’t wait to see how it continues. We are a competitive group, and we play with such heart, it is wonderful to be a part of. There is still a lot of time left.”
First-year catcher Jordan Lebsock said she has been spending time getting to know how her role looks on the college’s field. She said she’s been playing since she was eight years old, her first team being with her best friend and best friend’s father as the coach.
“I think we’re a very young team,” Lebsock said. “I think our biggest challenge has been just getting into our roles, even though we’re all younger, and trying to take on those leadership roles and play with the experience we have, while also not having experienced a lot of college softball.”
Coach Croushore said the team is led by three captains this year: Reagan Mullen (senior), Ariel Lashinsky (junior) and Philycia Pedrosa (sophomore). Mullen, while not on the team’s roster, plays a role similar to a team manager. Croushore said the three leaders all have different approaches to leadership, which she sees as a benefit to the team as a whole. The adoption of captains is new this year, compared to past leadership styles, according to Lashinsky.
“For me, I’ve been more of an off-the-field organizational leader,” Lashinsky said. “Making sure everyone knows when to be there, what we’re wearing, how we’re ready to get onto the field.”
Lashinsky said that beyond her leadership, the team makes her feel more connected to Occidental’s campus and is one of her biggest support systems. Together, they celebrate teammates’ birthdays and exchange gifts for holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas, she said. During preseason, Lashinsky said they focused not only on physical readiness but also on fostering a supportive culture on the team — including personality testing, which assigned players different colors to describe their personality type.
“We had a few speakers come in and we did personality testing. Obviously, we’re a group of 20 girls, we’re not all the same type of people. We found out their colors — blue, orange, yellow, green — and how our personalities mesh with everyone else,” Lashinsky said. “Learning about where our teammates fit into each category was really helpful to understanding, like maybe you’re doing bad on the field and you need a certain kind of support, and I know what color you are, I know how better to support you.”
Coach Croushore said the team has become a sort of family. She urges the team to soak in every moment of the season since she said it goes by so quickly once they start conference games towards the end of March.
“We push each other to grow each day because we know that at the end of the day, we all need each other to be successful,” Croushore said. “You can’t do it alone in softball, you need your teammates, and we have a great, strong group.”
According to Lebsock, the team has helped her adjust to college and the softball field.
“They’re really good at trying to acclimate us into this school and the program as well, to help us and guide us through this transition into college and softball,” Lebsock said.
In frequent team meetings, the team agrees on and reevaluates goals throughout the season, said Croushore. On and off the field, this softball family is built on pillars of value, Lashinsky said.
“One of our biggest goals is based off of our pillars for the year: respect, guts, toughness and accountability. I think that for me, guts is our newer one and has been really important because we’re going into a new year, we lost some seniors and we don’t know how everyone plays,” Lashinsky said. “But our mindset is not being scared, not fearing what’s going to happen because we really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Contact Mollie Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org.