2017 Schedule | @UConnSoftball on Twitter
STORRS, Conn. – The circumference of Earth is 24,901 miles. In the first six weeks of the 2017 season, the UConn softball team will travel a cumulative total of about 19,542 miles – 78-percent of a trip around the world.
Trips to Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and California – as well as a once-in-a-lifetime venture to Hawaii - make up the first six non-conference tournaments for the Huskies, ranging from Feb. 10 to March 18.
With the season-opener scheduled on Friday as part of a doubleheader in the FGCU Softball Tournament, UConn players prepare for the grind of travel to find warm weather for regular-season competition.
“It’s tough because you miss a lot of class and have to reschedule exams. It’s a big adjustment, but it’s all fun. We’re with the team in the airport and we have a good time,” said junior Emma Stanley.
Sophomore Kelli Bates added, “Travel is part of the deal playing at UConn. We get to travel, see other places and play different teams. I like going to states I’ve never been to before, so it’s exciting.”
When it comes to coping as a student-athlete when on the road, overcoming the challenges of athletic and academic balance is something acquired with more experience, especially for the freshmen players.
“With travel softball, I never had the stress of school because it was the summer,” said freshman Carissa Brizzi. “I’ll have a tutor for some of my classes here to help me stay on top of things. I have my entire team to help me, so I’m not doing it alone.”
If it’s one thing long trips do, it’s bring people together. For a new team just starting a season-long experience, getting in as much bonding time as possible can only help team chemistry.
“It makes us more comfortable with each other. The coaches do a good job of making random pairings for each weekend for roommates, so we get the chance to know everyone,” said Bates, a second-year outfielder.
In terms of team activities, a favorite among the 18-player roster is hacky sack – a common tradition before practices and games. In airports, too. But just how serious does it get?
“We have gotten hacky sacks stuck on the roof at airports where we needed someone in maintenance to help us get it down,” said Stanley.
For Brizzi, a Virginia native, it was a new game that she had to pick up fast.
“I was awful when I got here, but I picked it up pretty quickly. The older players said I have to be good for the season because that’s how other teams judge us,” joked Brizzi.
Everyone handles the physical and mental stress of travel differently. When it comes to Bates, who is from Granite Bay, Calif., bouncing back in a rapid manner has become a little easier.
“For my travel teams, we were playing in Florida or Colorado sometimes. Being from northern California, we would fly to southern California every other weekend, so travel is something I’m used to,” said Bates.
Stanley, from Santa Clarita, Calif., also is used to travel when flying across the country to attend UConn. It’s about a 12-hour day, layover included, for her when she goes in either direction.
The longest trip to Hawaii will be broken up by a stop in Palo Alto, Calif. for the Stanford Invitational on March 11-12. The flight from Honolulu back to Connecticut, however, will be in the vicinity of 10 or 11 hours.
“It’ll be tiring, but it’s going to be cool seeing all of us travel and room together,” said Brizzi. “Being able to room with the older girls will help us be closer. It’ll be fun hanging out, eating together and playing together.”
The trip to Stanford will also work nicely for Bates and Stanley, who will have the chance to play in front of family and friends – something rare for both players.
“My entire family will be at the Stanford games. They live about six to eight hours away. It’s a long trip for us, and them, but I’m so happy they are going to be there,” said Stanley.
For Bates, it will be a chance to play against her best friend. “Molly Fowkes, an outfielder for Stanford, was a teammate of mine in high school. She and I have been best friends for a long time; it’s going to be fun playing each other in college.”
As challenging as the journey will be at times, the destinations for each of the next six weeks is a way for the Huskies to come together. From all different parts of the country, each player will have a chance to see places they never have before.