In their first full season since 2019, the Emory University softball team compiled a 18-20 record. They have made appearances in five NCAA softball championships, most recently finishing as runner-ups in 2019. The Eagles have also brought home 12 championship titles out of their 16 appearances in the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships.
However, the team knew championships in the UAA and NCAA would be just as challenging this year as any in Emory’s history. The Eagles were already shorthanded coming into this season; with only 11 players on the roster, they had little room for substitutes. Recent injuries to a few key players brought them down to eight, leaving them one short of the nine needed to field a team.
Thankfully, other Emory athletics teams kept those aspirations alive. Eagles from the women’s basketball and volleyball teams came to the rescue, joining the team when they were needed most.
“If the same thing happened to my team, I, of course, would really want someone to do the same thing for us,” said senior Tori Huggins, who finished her final basketball season in March. She played left field and made 10 appearances at the plate.
Huggins said that her prior experience playing softball in high school and her enthusiasm for the sport were contributing factors to her decision to join the team.
“I played two years in high school, my freshman and sophomore year,” Huggins said. “It’s been six years, and I was new in high school to the sport, so I really enjoy it but [I am] definitely somewhat new to the sport.”
Huggins’ decision to join the team was more focused around the softball team than it was her personal passions. Having finished her final season just a couple months ago, Huggins understands the importance of collegiate athletics and saw the hard work of the team.
“As an athlete, all you can really hope for is to be able to extend your four years of college sports as long as you can,” Huggins said. “[I’m] making sure that I’m doing anything I can to help the softball team.”
Similarly, junior volleyball players Amanda Meyer and Caitlyn Reynolds joined Huggins on the field. Reynolds played in highschool as well, and is currently an outside hitter for the volleyball team. She explained that despite the team’s struggles, she found herself in a positive and motivated team atmosphere.
“[The team is] clearly doing some great things even though they’re struggling a little bit with numbers,” Reynolds said. “The coach is amazing, and the girls were so welcoming and so grateful and so encouraging.”
The positive team culture also resonated with Huggins and contributed to her smooth integration into the new team.
“Their team culture is very similar to our team culture in basketball, and that I think made the transition to softball very easy,” Huggins said. “The warm welcome of [the] softball team made it very easy to transition, and also just enjoying and spending time within the Emory athletics community is something that I really wanted to extend.”
Reynolds agreed, stating that she discovered that the trend of optimism and camaraderie extends beyond her experience within volleyball to all different sports at Emory.
“Their whole team culture, you can tell that they really care about each other,” Reynolds said.“I thought what Emory volleyball has is really special team culture-wise, but I am realizing that [it exists] across all departments at Emory.”
Since Meyer and Reynolds were in the middle of their spring volleyball season, they attended softball practice three times a week while also attending volleyball practice and managing their school work. Although balancing both sports and academics can be challenging, Reynolds’ passion for the sport provides the necessary motivation.
“It’s a lot of early mornings and late nights,” Reynolds said. “But honestly, getting to play the sport that you know you love and with some people that you really care about is more than worth it at the end of the day.”
The team even recruited junior Anna Fossier, who has never competed at the collegiate level but was eager to help the team however she could. Knowing that the team was lacking players, Fossier reached out to head coach Adrianna Baggetta with a handful of games left in the season to ask if the Eagles “need assistance in any capacity.” Like Huggins and Reynolds, Fossier had played softball for the majority of her life prior to coming to Emory but hasn’t played at a highly competitive level since. As a result, her skills are rusty, and since the season was drawing to a close when she reached out, Fossier said that she only practiced with and managed the team for the remainder of the season as she eased into the student-athlete lifestyle.
“After not playing for three years, I would not be ready to go on the field,” Fossier said. “[Coach Baggetta and I] agreed that I would just practice and get used to the program and then help manage the games, and it’s been really great . . . I knew that it was going to be a very intense and hardworking program. My expectations were exceeded about how much the girls really care about the program and how much effort is put into it.”
Huggins sees playing with the softball team as her “perfect retirement opportunity” and she feels “very grateful to be able to join them.” For now, Meyer and Reynolds are focusing on volleyball, but Reynolds assured that, “we’re there when they need us.”