By Jonathan Hamelin
A sixth-place finish at nationals may not have given fans reason to root, root, root for the home team, but the University of Regina women’s softball team is looking beyond the result.
From Oct. 5 to 8, the Cougars played host to the Canadian Collegiate Softball Association national championships at Kaplan Field and Rambler Park. It was the first time they’ve ever hosted the event.
“It’s a big step forward for our program,” said Chenelle Mitchell, a right fielder for the Cougars.
Though the U of R lost 8-1 to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Trojans in the fifth-place game, the Cougars feel that having nationals in their own backyard is reason to celebrate.
“U of R softball isn’t really well known, so I think that hosting nationals was a pretty big deal, just to get the word out there that our team does exist,” said Mitchell, who was named a tournament all-star. “It was really exciting to be hosting and everyone was really excited to be there.
The nationals included teams from Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario. While the weather wasn’t ideal for playing softball, event liaison John Papandreos noted that this didn’t dampen the spirits of those who attended. Papandreos said feedback for the event was universally positive.
“Everybody that I spoke to said it was an excellent, successful event,” said Papandreos, U of R co-ordinator of recreation services. He added that the Cougars took in “significantly more money than was expected” at the gate.
“We were complimented by so many of the teams on how hospitable we were and how wonderful our volunteer base was,” Papandreos said. “There was no way we could have operated an event such as this without the use of a significant number of volunteers. The majority of them were parents: working the gate, running concessions, announcing, scorekeeping.”
Cougars head coach Mike Smith said hosting nationals shows how far the softball program has come since it started in 2004.
Since softball is not a classified Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the Cougars are never guaranteed any financial support. The team had struggles filling its roster in the early days and, due to a previous U of R sports policy, couldn’t use the “Cougars” alias until 2007.
But the team has shown success on the field, being named the Alberta Intercollegiate Women’s Fastball Association champion in 2009 after posting a 16-1-0 record.
“It’s been eight years of work – a lot of hard work,” Smith said. “It seems like the struggles are behind us.
“Everybody that has anything to do with the team should be proud.”