By Katie Witham
After finishing as runners up in 2008, Palm Beach Atlantic University’s softball team captured the program’s first ever national championship this past spring season.
With a second place finish the previous season, head coach Kimberly Bloemers knew her team had the ability to go all the way.
“We knew at the beginning of the season that we were working towards this,” said Bloemers. “The whole season was in preparation for the tournament.”
The team dominated the tournament, shutting out all three of their opponents. They beat Indiana Wesleyan University 2-0 and Central Baptist 1-0, before blowing away Spring Arbor University 6-0 in the championship game.
Throughout the season, the team faced a variety of challenges, including a weak offense and a smaller than average team.
Bloemers said that the team’s strength was definitely in their defense, while their offensive shortcomings forced them to be more creative with pitch selection. The team also went from an already small 14 players, to an even smaller twelve over the season. But the team’s hard work and camaraderie helped them overcome the setbacks, said Bloemers.
Adding to the challenges, was the fact that Bloemers was six and half months pregnant at the time of the tournament. She said she feels that while she helped take care of the girls, they also helped take care of her.
The team also won an impressive amount of post-season awards. Bloemers was named ICAA Coach of the Year. Ashley Jones was named ICAA Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive year, as well as NCCAA South Regional Player of the Year, NCCAA National Pitcher of the Year, and ICAA first team. Caitlin Bouschet was named to the ICAA second team for the second consecutive year, as was Mari Stokes in her first season with the team.
After the historic championship win, expectations will be even higher for the team in the coming season, as Bloemers said the stakes will be even higher.
Sophomore, Mari Stokes echoed this idea, saying she hoped the team would achieve a better record overall. “We’ll go into the season with the same mentality and be really fired up,” Stokes said.
When asked if a repeat could be on the horizon, Bloemers replied, “Absolutely. I’m very optimistic. It’s by no means in the bag and I wouldn’t want to go into the season thinking that, but there is definitely a chance. We’ll just go in there and play sailfish softball.”
With a national title under their belt, senior Chelsea Gravini hopes the team will achieve more support on campus.
“The win has made more of a name for the team on campus,” said Gravini. “After winning the national championship hopefully more people will want to come out to the games and see what softball’s all about.”
The 2009 PBA Sailfish softball season begins Feb. 3 against Northwood University.