Lions go national

by Beacon Staff • March 19, 2008

Over spring break, members of the Emerson softball and baseball teams were enjoying the sunny weather of Florida, like many of their fellow students. However, the players weren't there to sip magaritas and tan by the ocean; they were competing in the opening games of their respective seasons.

A number of Emerson's teams, including baseball, softball and both basketball teams, have traveled to compete in games or tournaments against schools from outside of their respective league schedules.

Earlier this season, the women's basketball team competed in events at both the University of Maine at Farmington and Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. Head Coach William Gould said the chance to participate in tournaments helps to get ready for post-season play where a single defeat can mean the end of a team's season.

"We try to get to the point where it becomes a competition within itself," Gould said. "It's training for when we have to win a game to get into the next round."

Next season, the women's basketball team will travel to a tournament in Washington, D.C. hosted by Gallaudet University, a school which consists of mostly students who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. Next year, Emerson will host its own women's basketball tournament for the first time, which Gould said is likely to include Curry College of Milton, Mass.; Keene State College of Keene, N.H; and Elmira College of Elmira, N.Y.

The team has also participated in events as far west as California in the past, according to Emerson Coordinator of Athletic Operations Roger Crosley.

Gould said that participating in two- or three-day tournaments also allows teams to play a number of games in a short period of time, which ultimately leads to more rest.

"If we play games two days apart, we need to practice in between, the day before a game," Gould said. "But if we play two games in two days, I can give the team a day off after the tournament."

Softball Head Coach Phil McElroy recently returned from a spring break trip with his team to Orlando, Fla., where it posted a 4-6 record during its stay. Emerson softball has been participating in tournaments since 1998, with other destinations including Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Fort Myers, Fla.

"It was nice to get away from school and focus completly on softball," said Bridget Farago, a sophomore outfielder on the softball team. "It was great to play on the clay and grass and catch a fly ball in the open field."

With the cold weather and the possibility of snowfall posing as potential obstacles, McElroy said almost every college team from the northern part of the country play a number of early-season games in warm areas.

"The kids look at it as exciting because they play about a quarter of their games in one week," McElroy said. "It's an exciting time to be with teammates and not have to worry about classes at the same time."

Athletic Director Kristin Parnell said that all four teams that traveled this semester-baseball, softball, men's lacrosse and women's lacrosse-were given an equal amount of funding from the school for their trips.

"No matter when these athletic getaways take place, plenty of planning is involved, with raising funds being the focal point," Parnell said. "For many of our programs, this can be an almost year-long process to help cut the cost being paid by each individual player going along."

Depending on the destination for each team, travel arrangements are handled differently. While most conference opponents are close enough to reach by van, some out-of-state foes sometimes require a rented bus. For the trips taken by the softball and baseball teams to Florida, the two squads flew down to the respective sites.

"We faced some of the top 25 teams in the nation and the weather was a big improvement from Boston," said Farago, a writing, literature and publishing major. "The games are going to prepare us for the upcoming season and let us know what we need to work on."

Ultimately, McElroy said the biggest advantage for out-of-state competition is to get a sense of a team's talent against national opponents.

"The competition in our conference is good, but not as strong top-to-bottom [as national competition]," McElroy said. "[The Florida trip] gives us the chance to see how we match up with some of the other teams in the country."