Softball team embraces adversity


Dragon softball players round home plate as Madi Johnson arrives after a home run bomb

The month of March of 2020 is one that athletes around the world will never forget. It will be marked as the month in their life where their season was cut short due to the spread of the coronavirus. While some sports had the opportunity to finish their seasons, others such as Round Rock softball were just getting started, opening the season 13-2 overall, 3-0 in district. The number 11 state ranked Lady Dragon’s will have to wait until next year to compete as the UIL announced on April 17 that all spring sports would be cancelled.

“Personally, I am taking the season cancellation pretty hard,” senior Kaylee McQuillan said. “Everytime I open up my closet and see my jerseys, I think about all the memories, blood, sweat, and tears that Lauren, Taylor, Madi, and I have had over our four years as a Dragon softball player. It hurts a lot to know we will never get to play again. Not a day goes by that I do not shed a tear.”

With spring sports being cancelled, the season is done for the four starting seniors, Madison Johnson, Kaylee McQuillan, Taylor Holman, and Lauren HerrNeckar. While the disappointment runs high about not being able to play, these senior leaders have continued to stay in contact with their underclassmen teammates, calling them each day, and continuing to mentor them.

“As a senior, I’ve been keeping in touch with the girls and seeing how they are,” senior Madi Johnson said. “I feel like it’s my job to make sure they are staying mentally positive during these times.”

With the season being cancelled, Johnson, McQuillan, Holman, and HerrNeckar look out towards college softball as their next destination. As National Signing Day has passed already, Johnson has committed to Texas A&M at Corpus Christi, McQuillan has committed to St. Edwards, Holman to Mary Hardin Baylor, and HerrNeckar to East Central University. While these girls will look to make it big in college, they have already made it big at home among their underclassmen.

“One of the main things I will remember from this senior class is their work ethic,” sophomore Emma Price said. “We have four very talented seniors this year and I cannot wait to see their accomplishments through college. Every day of practice, all four of them gave it their all and have been great role models and leaders towards our team.”

“One thing I will remember from our senior class is how inclusive they were,” junior Maia Garza said. “They are all truly amazing leaders and knew how to gain respect rather than demand it. They knew when to have fun and what to say no matter what position the team was in.”

While the season may be over, these ladies still have to stay sharp for when softball does return. Gyms are closed and players don’t have anywhere to practice their softball skills, so they have found innovative ways to stay in peak mental and physical shape.

“For staying in physical shape, Coach Painter has offered to send us full body workouts or allowed us to create our own intense workouts to do which is the option most girls on the team have chosen,” Price said. “Personally, I’ve been going on runs for conditioning. When it comes to training specific to softball, I have been doing a lot of tee work in my backyard and some light glove work and catching drills as I am recovering from a concussion that I got during preseason.”

“As far as staying in mental shape, a huge part of softball IQ is watching games,” junior Maia Garza said. “Just watching creative plays on Youtube and reading Heads Up Baseball 5 Skills has helped me a lot. Honestly, the biggest part of the mental game is being able to recognize when you’re doing something wrong so filming myself while hitting has been super helpful to keep my mind engaged in the technical side of the sport.”

The Round Rock softball team has shared a close bond with the senior class of 2020. Normally, seeing each other during school and practice daily, the ladies have continued to strengthen their bonds with each other despite the coronavirus keeping them away from softball and school.

“My love for each and every one of these girls is huge,” McQuillan said. “Each and everyone of them has played a huge part in my life whether they know it or not. They all have the brightest future ahead. The only advice I have for the girls coming back next year is to remember the feeling of winning, remember the fight, remember the pain, and know your why. Have a purpose everyday.”

The senior class of 2020 will leave Round Rock with 56 wins and two playoff berths. The Lady Dragons were likely to add to both of those stat lines had the season continued. Coming off a 19-13 season in 2019 and one win shy of a playoff berth, Round Rock softball was on a mission in 2020. Starting the season in dominating fashion winning games by as much as 17, the Lady Dragons took a commanding lead of District 13-6A.

“It’s hard to wrap my head around the season cancellation,” Johnson said. “It’s something you never expect to happen. For me personally, I’ve been trying to tell myself that it is over. Although my career is not completely over, considering I have college ball, it sucks because this team is a family. It was going to be a special year.”