With a final push to make the National Club Softball Association (NCSA) Playoffs, the Grand Canyon University Club Softball team wrapped up their regular season schedule traveling to Flagstaff for a tripleheader against Northern Arizona University. The outcome of the weekend perfectly captured what has been an up-and-down season for the Lopes as they swept the Lumberjacks. The Lopes held off the charge of NAU in Game 1, 7-6, before running away with the last two games by 12-2 and 7-2 margins.
“We’re comfortable with tripleheaders,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Lindsey Collins. “Because we had such a large team this year, it made it easy to rotate fresh players throughout an entire series. It was definitely an advantage we had on NAU.”
Despite handling business on their end in the final series, Grand Canyon still missed out on a playoff berth, since their finishing record of 14-4 put them one game behind San Diego State University in the race for the Pacific Region South Conference title. By virtue of their 15-3 record, the Aztecs clinched the lone playoff berth coming out of the conference.
The decline in performance from just a year ago when the team made a run to the NCSA Final Four came as a shock to both the Lopes’ players and head coach.
“As a coach, you want to build off your program every year, so I shoulder most of the blame,” said Collins. “Our team faced tons of adversity this year, with player injuries, team dynamics and chemistry, and overall just starting games off too slow.”
The Lopes finished the season with an overall 5-3-1 record in series matchups. In virtually every series, the team had their lowest output of runs in the first game of the series, then often doubling their run total in the second and third games.
It was a trend the team struggled to break all year long.
“One great thing about coaching is being able to relate things to life,” said Collins. “Just because we had such tremendous talent doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be successful. Building relationships in the work place is so important.”
While there’s an entire summer between now and when GCU will take the field as a team again, that hasn’t stopped Collins from already preparing to better position the team for success next year.
“We’ll have a huge turnover of players next year that will really help with building chemistry and trusting one another,” said Collins. “There’s going to be more of a competitive atmosphere for positions next year, so we can push harder. Plus, I’ll have two graduating seniors who’ll both be coming back to help coach.”
Although the season ended in a way that no one predicted, the perspective and optimism displayed from Collins are positive signs for how the team will be able to handle adversity in the future.