This past weekend, the Michigan softball team was scheduled to play a three-game series spread out over the course of three days at Rutgers.
Instead, the coaches from both teams decided to schedule a doubleheader for Saturday, providing Michigan the opportunity to fly home Saturday night and have an extra day in Ann Arbor to relax and catch up on homework. But instead of adjusting their travel plans, the Wolverines stuck with their original itinerary and spent Sunday on an impromptu trip to New York City.
Generally, events like these are meant for players and coaches alike to bond in hopes of building team morale and chemistry. And it was evident at the beginning of the season that Michigan was one of the most talented teams in the country that also placed a premium on team culture.
“I think our team especially has fantastic chemistry this year,” said senior second baseman Faith Canfield on Feb. 5. “There’s definitely a great dynamic among our players, our staff, our coaches, and our locker room and everything. Everyone works hard and everyone’s really excited to be here every day.
“I think this program has always had, traditionally, a strong culture. Our main word this year was ‘respect.’ Respect Team 42. Whether that’s respect individually and how we treat people or just saying things that need to be said because we’re respecting the goals that we’re going after.”
After an uncharacteristic 9-9 start that included Michigan dropping out of the top-25 rankings for the first time in several years, however, the Wolverines’ tried-and-true morale was tested. Veterans struggled during crucial moments and lineup changes happened on a game-by-game basis, especially in the infield – resulting in sloppy play and fielding errors.
“(The infield) is as good as just about anyone,” said sophomore first baseman Taylor Bump after the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Feb. 19. “They don’t make it easy for me over there, but I know what to expect from them and whenever they mess up, I’m owning that it’s my job to try and help them out. So, I think our entire infield is working on the trust relationship.
“I think that’s something we’ll get toward by the end of the season.”
However, it seems like the team has already gotten there, and it’s only halfway through the season. The veterans are finally stepping up to the box and swinging with confidence, providing stability to a once-volatile batting order.
But what’s been more evident is that the team’s culture and chemistry has given Michigan something to fall back on throughout this unusual season.
This culture has given freshman outfielder Lexie Blair the confidence to take the No. 3 spot in the batting order and hit at a .407 clip – which leads the team. This culture has allowed freshman right-hander Alex Storako to look up to and learn from an All-American pitcher in sophomore Meghan Beaubien without feeling any pressure. This culture has given direction to a team that seemed like it was it in reverse.
So the next time the Wolverines spend a day or two during their road trips to travel, know that this isn’t anything new. They’re just following the Michigan way.