Defeat becomes inspiration

In the past 14 years, the Lady Rattlers softball team has won nine MEAC championships. However in the 2007 MEAC postseason tournament, the North Carolina A&T State Aggies beat FAMU, sending the team home with two losses.

 “That was probably my first time losing as much as we lost; it was a heart breaker,” said Ashley Smith, a third-year centerfielder. “But it opened our eyes to show us that we need to work harder and to never become complacent.”

The Lady Rattlers had their first official season practice Jan. 7. Senior outfielder Krista Richardson said the atmosphere of the team is dissimilar to last year’s and that the team’s mindset is different.

“The way we ended last year we vowed that we’d never go back to that,” said Richardson. “We have a totally different mindset for this season.”

That mindset was turned into a new team motto adapted by the Lady Rattlers. For the team, MEAC now stands for “Must Eliminate All Competitors.” Richardson said this saying has become the team’s motivation for this year.

“We mean it like it ain’t nothing,” she explained. “We mean it to the death, to the end. That’s our motivation this year.”

She believes this newfound motivation and mindset has brought the players together on and off the field, building up their team chemistry and excitement. Alyssa Watts, an outfielder and infielder agreed. She said everyone is excited.

“Everyone’s excited to be here,” the junior said. “Everybody’s proud and nobody wants to go through what we went through last year. On the field we know how to pick up the next person if someone’s not doing right and how to get on each other. As for off the field it’s like having a group of best friends everywhere all the time.”

She said she believes that the new attitude has also had an effect on the new additions to the Lady Rattlers.

“We have two freshmen and three transfers, and they have their own work ethic,” Richardson said. “I don’t have to push them; they drive themselves, so I think that’s going to make us [much] better this year because we don’t have to teach anybody anything about tradition. They’re willing to step in and do what they have to do and follow their roles.”

Veronica Wiggins, coach of the Lady Rattlers for the past 13 years, said last year’s newcomers had to take over and lead right away, but this year the newcomers have leadership to help them. She also said the players do not want to experience what the defeat they went through last year and are willing to sacrifice and commit to do what is necessary.

“Sometimes it takes going through rough times to come back and know that you’re good,” said Wiggins. “Last year they were younger. We didn’t have the leaders that spoke up, so now we got the leaders and the good team chemistry and everything seems to mix well.”