The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.
Coach Allister on No. 7, Sam Macken: "After finishing last season in the outfield, Sam will move into the infield this spring. Sam is a tough, gritty competitor that will likely find a home near the top of the order."
My softball journey started after attending 14U nationals as a 12 year-old. While driving home to Rochester with my parents, I told them that I didn't want softball to be over. I had noticed so many good athletes and teams at nationals and I wanted to challenge myself further. The next day, we drove to the Twin Cities and I tried out and made a fall club team. I realized that my dream was to play Division I softball. Like so many other young girls, I watched the Women's College World Series and I wanted to be on one of those teams. However, I quickly realized most of those teams are not interested in a small town girl from Minnesota.
Over the next four years, I played an amazing 120 games per year. This was because I played a spring high school season, I played for my club team and I also continued to play with my high school community team. I played softball every day of the week and I loved every minute of it.
During this busy, exciting and fun time, I was fortunate enough to meet and play with and against Gopher players. That involvement, discussion and experience made me recognize how much I wanted to stay in Minnesota and play for the Gophers.
The first meeting with Coach Allister was in Huntington Beach, California my junior summer. After the final tournament of the season, Coach Allister talked to me and wanted my family and I to meet with her the following week. The meeting with Coach made a big impact and impression on me. I quickly made the best decision of my life and committed to the U.
Among other factors besides the coaching staff, the U had so much of what I wanted. The location was paramount. I was prepared to live a distance from home, but being only 90 minutes was icing on the cake. The U's academics, size, environment and facilities were great! And I couldn't wait to be apart of it all!
Coming in to the softball program my freshman year was intimidating because it is so different from any other team I was a part of, but it became an easy transition for me. There was strong leadership from the upperclassmen and everyone was welcoming and approachable. This team is truly my family away from home and having friends and teammates like the ones on this team makes everything so much more enjoyable and exciting. In addition, what is so impressive about this program is how hard all the players and coaches work to achieve one common goal--the WCWS.
Last year was absolutely crazy and was a dream come true. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be part of a Big Ten Tournament Championship! In addition, winning regionals at home and advancing to super regionals for the first time in program history was unforgettable. The 2013-14 season was a reward for all the hard work that we had put in and it reinforced in us the incentive to work even harder together.
After the success of the 2013-14 season, I continued with one last vigorous summer schedule because once again I wanted more, which ended only weeks before returning for fall ball with my Gopher teammates. Undoubtedly, every one player on this team feels as I do--we all saw what we are capable of and we want to make it to the next stage, Oklahoma City.