This year, a former athlete decided to take the field one last time.
Taylor Smola, a senior, went back out for softball after taking her junior year off.
“Through the years, my teammates and coaches not only have pushed me to become the best softball player I can be, but they have helped me become a better person,” Smola said.
She decided not to play the previous year because of her busy academic schedule and preparing for grad school.
Smola said she likes to give full commitment to everything she participates in, which led her to make the decision to walk away from the team for a year.
“I felt if I could not give softball the needed commitment, that would not have been fair to my teammates, my coaches or myself,” she said.
While Smola enjoyed her year off and the experiences she had off the field, she continues to value the sport and being part of a team.
“Last year, I was able to take part in a few different opportunities and I know I learned a lot about myself and what I want for my future. But what I can tell you is that I missed playing softball a lot,” Smola said.
During Smola’s absence, a new coach was appointed to the softball team.
Jamie Mueller came to the program from Indiana.
When Smola rejoined the team, she was an entirely new face for Mueller.
“I am happy Taylor is a part of our softball program this year.,” Mueller said.
“She’s a great addition to the team, personally and professionally.”
As the pair continue to work together, Mueller said Smola plays as if she never left the field.
The new coach attributes this success to Smola’s athleticism.
“She’s a phenomenal hitter and is going to be an important part of the lineup that produces a lot of runs for us,” Mueller said.
“She’ll also catch a lot of innings for us. She hasn’t caught much since high school, but it’s because of her athleticism that she’s able to jump right back into it and be the solid leader behind the plate that we need,” Mueller said.
Mueller also looks forward to Smola’s leadership and her knowledge and compassion for the game.
“Taylor’s leadership skills will go a long way in helping our team culture and team chemistry,” Mueller said.
“She leads by example – always putting her best foot forward, keeping things in perspective, and maintaining an even-keeled temperament.”
“She also leads with her voice and knows how to communicate effectively with her teammates, who undoubtedly and understandably look up to her,” Mueller said.