Softball: Several area teams ready for a road trip
To travel or not to travel on spring break.
It's a question all high school softball teams face this time of year. And while some teams travel to play in warmer climates, some choose to stay home and take their chances.
We posed the question to several area coaches and got mixed results.
South Elgin has been traveling to Tennessee for several years and will again next week.
"It's just a really great way to start the season," said Storm coach Brad Reynard, whose team will be joined in Tennessee by Aurora Central Catholic.
"New players get to bond with returning players, we play tremendous competition, and we get a ton of phenomenal BBQ," Reynard said. "Our kids really look forward to it. Most of our kids travel all summer with their programs but there is just something special to travel with their high school peers."
Kaneland's trip will be a little further from home.
"We are attending the Gulf Coast Classic Tournament in Gulf Shores, Alabama," said first-year Knights coach Madi Mikos. "We are looking forward to attending this tournament, as it will be our first time there. There will be tons of new competition for us and lots of opportunity to get our girls out on the field and play the game they love. We place a great value on this trip."
Then there are those schools, like Willowbrook, that combine their softball trips with their baseball programs.
"We are traveling to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to play three games -- one against a team from Indiana and two against teams from Tennessee," said Warriors coach Rachel Karos. "This is a new thing for us on the softball front for Willowbrook, but we have wanted to do it for years. We planned this trip together with our baseball program.
"As far as the value goes, I have had the honor of traveling with our flag football team this past season, and the memories, experience, and bonding that happens when you get to travel with your team are hard to match and I wanted to bring that to my softball program as well. I'm fortunate to be at a school that recognizes that value and is allowing both baseball and softball to travel and play ball and make some memories.
To Karos, the value of taking the trip will be on several fronts.
"We are definitely hoping to compete, build confidence, get all players innings, but most importantly grow as a team while we are down there, as well as show support for our Willowbrook baseball team," she said. "Both programs believe in supporting each other throughout our seasons and this will add another layer of that support and bonding between our two programs.
"Another aspect that I'm excited about is getting to show these student-athletes the city of Nashville. We will get to spend an entire day seeing what Tennessee has to offer, possibly stopping by some colleges, and taking our student-athletes to places they haven't been before. Many people don't realize that some of our students may have never left the state before. These school trips can provide them those type of opportunities."
Lake Park actually gets the prize for the longest trip. Coach Tom Mazzie's Lancers, who opened the season with a 9-5 win over Naperville Central at Bandits Stadium on Tuesday, hit the road this week for Chandler, Arizona, where they will play at least five games in the Hamilton Invitational.
Then there are those teams that travel, but within the state.
Huntley, which opened the season with a 4-1 loss to state power Lemont on Wednesday, heads to western Illinois this weekend. The Red Raiders play at Rock Island on Saturday and then at Metamora on Monday.
"We hope the weather is a little better than by us," said Huntley coach Mark Petryniec. "The value is the bonding time the team gets on the long bus rides to and from the locations."
Dundee-Crown will be traveling to Jacksonville, IL and participating in the 2023 Play the Turf High School Jamboree.
"This trip will allow us to get some much needed games in before conference play," said Chargers first-year coach Matthew Goetz, whose team fell 6-0 to Buffalo Grove in its opener last week. The Chargers followed with a 13-6 win over Harlem.
"Starting off on the right foot against conference opponents is a major goal of mine this season. To be able to get in a good five games over spring break will hopefully help us get better timing at the plate and also allow us to tighten up our defense more before conference games get started."
Burlington Central will also be in Jacksonville next week.
"I think it will be some valuable experience playing teams that we normally do not see," said first-year Rockets coach Lauren King, whose team fell to Sycamore 6-4 in its season opener on Tuesday.
There are also coaches who choose not to travel and take their chances with the local weather -- and not spend the money traveling requires.
"My opinion of softball travel at the high school level is that it is a lot of money to play games somewhere else when you have a decent chance of playing games in this area," said 12th-year Larkin coach Anne Vogt, whose Royals opened with a 12-2 win over Hoffman Estates on Tuesday and then beat Crystal Lake South 8-5 on Wednesday.
"We have done a dome game in the past. I think it does add value to team bonding, but I hate to spend that kind of money on travel, hotels, etc., for schools and families when we should be getting games in that week locally."