Keep an Eye On This Year’s Women’s Softball
by Coraima Camacho
Women’s softball has been hard at work during conditioning in recent weeks, as they are due to begin their season soon.
This year’s team is coached by Henry Henderson, Northside’s Athletic Director, and co-captained by seniors Kathryn Merck, Adv. 800, and Eva Empleo, Adv. 810, whom have co-captained the team for three years, as well as Sophia Chang-Stauffer, Adv. 810, who has co-captained for two years. Additionally, they hope to train an underclassmen captain this year to take over once they are gone after this season.
One of the team’s most notable accomplishments is previously placing third in city. Having lost only three seniors from last year, the team is still well-rounded, with most players having two to four years of softball experience under their belt. However, these seniors will be still be missed, as Megan Kennedy, Class of 2017, made the All-City team during the 2017 season. The only other player to do this was Madeline Schoeff, Adv. 908, who is fortunately still on the team. Other remaining starting players are first baseman Kathryn Merck, Adv. 800, second baseman Caroline Merck, Adv. 901, Empleo as pitcher or shortstop, Erin Franke, Adv. 908 as pitcher, and Schoeff as catcher or third baseman.
A key player in this upcoming season is freshman Bailey Nicholoff, Adv. 103. She initially played soccer, but began playing softball at around age five after her father felt that she should commit to a sport that did not have her solely relying on her teammates. Nicholoff more often than not is a catcher, but can also be found playing the corners, outfield, and occasionally middle infield. Additionally, she states that she most looks forward to “playing with the girls on my team and just having fun competing against my travel teammates that attend Fenwick (High School).”
The team has many goals, which they are dedicated to achieving this season. “Get stronger as a team, beat Lane Tech, win city, [and] develop strong junior varsity players,” said the Merck sisters. Many players had personal goals, including Nicholoff, who stated that her goal is to make the All-City team. In order to do so, she aims to work hard, give her all in practice, and listen to any advice her teammates and Coach Henderson offer her.
Aside from athletic endeavors, the players value their interconnectedness and team spirit. Many of them have been been playing together or against one another since they were very young. Caroline Merck stated that her favorite part about being on the team is “just being able to play and represent your school [with] a lot of close friends from my neighborhood.” Team traditions are also a very important aspect for the girls. For example, their annual jersey swap with the Northside’s men’s baseball team and their 16-inch softball game against the Northside’s men’s team.
Softball games are definitely a must watch, but, because of the unpredictable Chicago weather, many early season games may be rained out. Also, the team typically plays against suburban Catholic schools. Rivals this season include Regina Dominican High School, Holy Trinity High School, Fenwick High School, and St. Ignatius College Prep.
The team encourages people to join even if they have never played and/or are worried that they would not be a good player. They describe softball as something everyone can participate in, learn how to play, and that it is “a lot of fun.” Nicholoff acknowledges that softball is often described as setting players up for failure, which is why she encourages people to not get discouraged and work hard to stay motivated. As for who she would encourage to join the team, she says, “[those who] love competing and playing with a team, but being seen as an individual.” She firmly believes individuals can stand out, and that bonds with “lasting impressions” can be formed. Team members agree that there are added benefits and opportunities for joining the team, such as skill improvement for both advanced and new players.
So, if you are seeking to expand your horizons and/or become more involved in Northside’s athletic teams, softball is the sport for you. If not, be ready to cheer on the Mustangs during their first game on March 12 against Resurrection College Prep High School.