On May 4, the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) officially announced the seedings for the CAA Championship tournament, with the Elon Phoenix sitting in second as expected. James Madison University sits at first, and under the Phoenix in order sit Towson, Drexel and College of Charleston. The Phoenix will be traveling to Harrisonburg, Virginia, for play to start on May 8 against its first opponent, Towson.
The CAA Softball tournament works differently than other tournaments in the sense that it is a double elimination play. Should the Phoenix lose against Towson, it would have one more chance to advance later on opening day. There Elon would play against the loser of the Drexel vs. College of Charleston game. If the Phoenix win against Towson, then it would not have to play again until the next day where they would most likely be playing No. 1, James Madison University.
Head coach Kathy Bocock is excited for her young team to play in the CAA tournament, and said that she thinks her team is prepared for this new kind of play.
“I feel like with our tournaments that we played in the beginning of the year and when we went to some other tournaments, we prepared ourselves for the CAA tournament, but the good thing is we’ve beat everybody that’s going to be there at least once, so that helps our confidence,” Bocock said.
This year has been an exciting one for the dark horse Phoenix team. Following the departure of valuable leaders from last year as well as the addition of eight new freshmen, sophomore Ally Repko said that even her expectations changed as the team became more confident in themselves.
“When season hit and we had that opening tournament where we had six home runs I think, that set the bar high, I don’t think anyone predicted how we came out,” Repko said.
One freshman that stuck out to Repko and coach Bocock was freshman Megan White.
Redshirt junior Abby Barker has taken a special liking to White, saying, “For me personally, Megan White has really stood out to me, I’m a pitcher and she’s a catcher so she’s really stepped into a big role in a really big way.”
Repko also said, “To have that role of one of the people that have that view of the whole field, she’s fit in amazingly. Even if she’s having a bad day at the plate hitting-wise, you can’t tell.”
Going into CAA tournament play, the team is looking to keep defying expectations with help from White and the rest of the explosive freshmen who have stepped up this season.
Coach Bocock is particularly excited. “They’ve been talking about us missing the tournament for the past two years,” Bocock said.
She says that it's made her team determined to exceed expectations and is proud of how her team has handled hardships that have been thrown at them this season, and how this team acts how a true team should.
“Team sports are kind of funny because it might not be your day, it might be someone else’s day, and you should be excited for each person all the time because that’s why you play a team sport,” Bocock said. “We want everybody to show up and if someone is having a bad day than someone else is picking them up and I feel that we’ve done that a lot this year which is kind of cool.”
Repko and Barker are also excited to be going back to CAA play, and recognize that while they will be playing the same teams they have been all year, the tournament will throw different challenges at them.
“I think we’re gonna be playing harder but I don't think the game plan that we have when it comes to how we handle hitting and stuff like that, that’ll stay the same,” Repko said. “What we’re good at, those strengths, those will change based on how much energy we bring.”
“We’ve worked hard all fall and winter and I think we wanted to of course make it to the CAA tournament,” Barker said. “I think it’s turned just as good, if not better than we had hoped to so far.”
For Coach Bocock, she spoke about keeping things as consistent as possible, something she says comes along with simplicity.
“Before we take the field we don’t have this big talk. Instead, we’re just like, ‘Alright, let’s go play softball,’ and boom, we keep things simple, and I think we try to keep that consistent. I think that helps them,” Bocock said.
The last time that the Phoenix played its series was on April 27-28, where the Phoenix won the series 2-1 (8-0, 2-4, 3-1). The Phoenix played the No. 1 seeded JMU once this season as well, and while Elon lost that series, they still managed to get one win over the Dukes, 5-3. This will be the first CAA tournament that the Phoenix have appeared in since 2016, where the team lost its first two games against University of Delaware and College of Charleston.