Hofstra Softball: The Underdog Story of the Decade in College Sports
On Sunday May 20, 2012 the Hofstra Softball team, the Pride, achieved something that no other squad had achieved in the history of the program. They advanced to the NCAA Super Regional, the last round before the College Softball World Series. What makes this story so special is that during the first two weeks of the softball season, this team lost the majority of its games. In fact, after the first eight games of the season, the Pride was winless. Before the annual Hofstra Invitational, a softball tournament held at Hofstra University at the beginning of conference play, the Pride managed to pick up two wins, bringing their record to an unimpressive 2-11. However, once the Hofstra Invitational began, the team morphed into a squad that was unbeatable in its conference, the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). They finished the regular season with a conference record of 19-0 and an overall record of 35-13.
Bill Edwards, head coach of the Hofstra Softball team, described his team’s improvement in three phases. The first phase involved players progressing in their softball skills. Throughout their tough start, Edwards continuously reminded his team that they would improve. “I told the team, all we have to do is get better every day”. As Edwards continued to keep the team’s confidence level on a high note despite the early losses, the Pride “really started to grow. We kept improving with our hitting, defense and Olivia Galati ’13 (starting pitcher) was getting better every time she threw the ball.” Galati pitched in each of the three NCAA Regional games, including a complete game against UCLA, a team ranked 12th in the nation.
During the conversation I had with Edwards, he commented that although his players have enjoyed every minute of their improvement, he has also taken great pride in watching his team grow into a strong opposition for any softball team in the nation. “I love to see kids improve. I’ve been doing this for a long time (22 seasons) and I just love to see kids get better. When kids work as hard as this team has worked, I want them to achieve and I want them to be rewarded.”
The second phase of their miraculous championship run was the team’s passion for victory. For coach Edwards, this determination to win was most evident after an extra inning loss to Lehigh University. Coming into the game, the Hofstra softball team had won seventeen straight and were determined to “run the table”. On April 11, the squad learned that staying undefeated was no easy task. They lost to Lehigh in eight innings by the score of 7-6. Following this loss, the reaction from the Hofstra players made it clear to coach Edwards that this team had “special” chemistry. Edwards gave a vivid description of this potentially season changing moment for the Pride.
At the end of the game we went to right field and I looked in their eyes and I knew right then and there that they were hurt. They were sincerely hurting. A couple kids were crying. One of the kids in the infield made an error that cost us the game. Nobody said anything to anybody but I knew right then and there that this team was very special. They did not like to lose.
When asked if this moment in right field was, in fact, a season changing moment, he responded by saying
Coaches can talk about team tangibles, you know all of the necessary chemistry and all the working parts that come together but when you feel it, I mean physically and tangibly touch something like that, not on the outside but on the inside, then you know…when your heart and soul is feeling their hurt then you’re thinking, wow this is pretty special.
The third phase of this astounding playoff run to a possible national championship was Edwards’s personal determination to send a message to the world of college athletics. “I wanted the country to see that there are players in the Northeast that can play. I wanted also to do something for the mid-majors, for the little guys, for the non-BCS.” Edwards explained that the problem with college athletics, and what continued to motivate him to push his team to their full potential, is that the heroes that are recognized by the press and the public are the “big guys”, not the smaller yet successful schools such as Hofstra. “The little guys who work so hard, who want to put their product on the field… they are coaching young ladies or young men. They just don’t get the recognition that they need to get. All of that sort of fuels me.”
The Hofstra Softball team continues their Cinderella story on Friday May 25, taking on the University of South Florida. Even though the University of South Florida squeaked by one of the best softball teams in the nation, fifth ranked University of Florida, coach Edwards explained that his “special” team just has to play their game to be successful. “We have to go play our game. We have to do everything we have done in the last fifty games we have played. Nothing is going to change the way we play.”
Check the FNCU blog next week for part two of the coverage on the Hofstra University softball team and their quest to become national champions!