“The credit goes to the girls.”
These six words, voiced by April Rosales, head coach of the Emporia State softball team, encapsulates how the Lady Hornets have overcome struggles and achieved success over the team's 50 year history.
“It’s our fiftieth year of Hornet Softball,” Rosales said. “We are the fiftieth team in the history of the program. We talk a lot about (how) no matter if you do well or do bad, you are going to be remembered one way or another. Do you want to be remembered or do you want to be forgotten? No matter what, you are Team 50.”
By law, Team 50 is entitled to the same athletic opportunities and resources as men's sports, however, that hasn't always been the story. During the team’s conception in the early ‘70s, womens’ athletics were underfunded and under supported.
An article published in December 1974 in The Bulletin illustrates the challenging environment women athletes had to endure in order to participate in intercollegiate athletics at that time. This environment even resulted in the omission of women's basketball and swimming from intercollegiate competitions in 1970.
“The (coaches) regretted having to make this move, however, coaching on their own time without pay and the overload situation which already existed proved there to be no other alternative,” wrote Vicki Haskins in her article. “It was during this time that the students had to help pay for transportation to and from games. The girls had to (wear) their P.E. uniforms or something similar as there wasn’t enough money to buy uniforms for the womens’ competitive teams.”
In addition to the lack of finances allocated to womens’ sports, there was also a lack of games. In 1973, the softball team had 10 games in the regular season, whereas, the baseball team had 40 games in the regular season, according to the 1973 edition of Sunflower, ESU’s yearbook. There are 56 games of the regular season scheduled for the Lady Hornets this year.
The successes and privileges embraced by Team 50 are only possible because of the hard work, determination and perseverance of the players and coaches from the previous half-century, according to Rosales.
“We wouldn't be here without the people that came before us, the coaches that came before us,” Rosales said. “The people that put in the blood, sweat and tears before we were here to help get us to this spot.”
This sentiment is embraced by the women on Team 50.
“I have played with, or have gotten to know, previous players that have been a part of previous teams,” said Sydney Righi, graduate student studying business administration and a pitcher for the team. “Team 50 wouldn't be anything without Team 49, 48 and so on. Coach always says ‘the program didn’t start when we got here and it's not going to end when we leave.’ Our legacy is Team 50.”
Players from past teams are highly involved with the current team. Every year alumni scrimmage against the current team and exchange stories from their time in college. The stories that aren't about their time on the field, are about the connections forged between teammates.
“Mostly they talk about how they don't remember their stats, they don't remember their record,” said Emma Furnish, junior outfielder and elementary education major. “They remember making bonds with their teammates and just spending that time together. Softball is more than softball.”
Team 50 opened their season with a tournament in Lubbock, Texas, Feb. 10 - 12. The team went 5-1 on the weekend. Team 50’s first home game is set for Feb. 18.
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