On Mar. 12, 2020, the last competitive athletic event held prior to the onset of the global pandemic was a 9-4 victory at home for the Muhlenberg softball team over the Cedar Crest Falcons. With the pandemic still in full motion, there was uncertainty building as to whether or not there would be any sporting events for the spring semester of 2021. However, on Mar. 5, the Centennial Conference approved a return to play plan for spring sports along with a modified schedule. As a result, the softball team took the field on Mar. 16 for a double-header against Rowan University, the first competitive Muhlenberg sporting event in over a year.
While unfortunately falling to Rowan both times, 5-3 and 6-3 respectively, there were still many victories to be gleaned from those first set of games. The opportunity to finally compete again and having a double-header was a victory in itself, but on top of it all, utility player Kersti Svenningsen ‘24 made history by hitting a home run her first time at bat- something. This had never been done before in Muhlenberg softball history.
“I was quite nervous. I have not played in a long time, let alone on a collegiate team,” Svenningsen said reflecting on this moment. Listening to her favorite music and having the support of her teammates as the game progressed helped her shed her nerves, and she was able to play her game.
For their second set of double-headers on Saturday, Mar. 20, against McDaniel College, the team traveled to Westminster, Maryland. In two tight and competitive contests, the Mules would fall again, 4-3 and 5-4. Despite this, catcher and infielder, Genna Cicchetti ’22, said that “once we get into a rhythm, I feel that we are going to be unstoppable.”
Sophie Chong ‘21, star pitcher and infielder for the Mules, was ready and grateful to return to play this spring, especially with it being her final season. “Being the last team to play last year and then being the first to return this year was really meaningful to us. We were all extremely excited and eager to represent Muhlenberg athletics, we have shown true resilience and we have learned a lot throughout the year,” said Chong.
It has definitely been a growing experience and year for all Muhlenberg athletes which is why, despite losing the game, it was still a success. Head Coach Sarah Leavenworth, who began her career at Muhlenberg in July 2019, stood behind and supported her players during this unprecedented time and continued to encourage them even with the loss.
“Coach Leavenworth continuously reminds us about the reality of our situation. We are extremely lucky to be in the position that we are today which is all thanks to the work of the College and our athletic department,” Chong said.
Muhlenberg has made it possible for athletes to have some sense of normalcy and return to play while still abiding by the COVID-19 protocols. Cicchetti praised Coach Leavenworth stating that she “has worked so hard along with Megan Patruno, Lynn Tubman, President Harring and the whole athletic staff for us to be able to return to sports again.”
Without the motivation of the students-athletes, though, and the steps they’ve taken to abide by the rules of the school, a successful return to play would not have been possible. “We need to continue to work together, work hard and have fun,” said Svenningsen.
The Mules are optimistic and looking forward to the rest of their highly-anticipated season. “Living in the moment and enjoying the time we have together will certainly attribute to our future success,” Chong said. Overall, the team is just excited to be out on the field again together and to have a season. Svenningsen added, “I believe that my teammates and I need to go out and play the game we all know and love.”