Women are coming out swinging as UC Merced added softball and badminton to its growing list of sports offerings this week.
“When things started to come together and it looked like we were getting a team, I rushed home to pick up my equipment. Softball has once again become all I can think about,” said PJ Solomon, 19, an economics major from Los Angeles. She has competed in fast-pitch games for 12 years, and really missed softball when she first came to UC Merced.
The softball team has its first scrimmage at the end of April against UC Davis, and the players are already excited.
“We are getting ready by breaking it down to the basics; almost as if we are learning everything about the sport all over again as a team,” said team captain Heather Orrell, 20, a biological sciences major from Thousand Oaks.
Orrell played softball in high school, but started playing “travel ball” in the junior Olympics at 8. She had the chance to attend college on softball scholarships, but said she chose UC Merced because at other schools, academics seemed less important for athletes.
“We’re establishing a strong academic team because it is founded by students,” she said.
She and her teammates decided not to compete in the club-sports league until next year.
“To play any sport, you have to know how to play as a team,” Orrell said. “The scrimmage will show us what to expect in next year’s competition, so we can prepare.”
For now, the team practices twice a week using UC Merced’s on-campus recreation field. Campus Recreation Director David Dunham said he’s working on an agreement to let them practice at one of the local schools, similar to the arrangement the men’s baseball team has with Merced High School.
Dunham said the badminton team wants to increase its membership beyond its current 20 players before competing.
Solomon said sports give UC Merced another reason to be proud.
“Sports and events requiring teamwork for success are one way this university will unite and become great,” she said.