ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)–Rock Valley College will be transitioning from NJCAA Division III to Division II this fall in athletics. Before that happens, the softball team wants to make sure the school leaves Division III with a bang…another national championship.
Next week the Golden Eagles will play at the NJCAA Nationals in Dewitt, New York just outside of Syracuse. It’s their final appearance at the Division III level where they’ve won the last seven national championships. It’ll be a sentimental experience for Darin Monroe. He’s led RVC teams to all those titles.
“I’ve made some friends across the country from the Division III level,” said Monroe. “Getting that opportunity to get to the national tournament, seeing some of my friends for the last time, sure they’ve been rivals at the national tournament, but we’ve grown a friendship and a respect level for each other.”
“I think it’s a little sentimental because it’s the last one,” said shortstop Kelli Riordan. “You better make it good.”
This team has been challenged all season, but bad weather, by injuries and by a stiff schedule. The weather has improved. The team is finally healthy, and those 11 losses the team absorbed during the regular season are a positive now, not a negative.
“This is the toughest schedule that we’ve ever put together. This team’s been tested,” said Monroe.
Six of the 11 losses were to Division I opponents. The other five were against Division II opponents who are all in the D-II national tournament.
Monroe says the chemistry on this team is incredible. This is not a power dominant team like RVC has had in the past. It’s a team built on speed.
“This is probably the fastest team that we’ve had,” said Monroe. “We play a little different than we have in years past. Last year it was the home run ball, where this year its stolen bases and causing havoc on those basepaths.”
And RVC’s pitchers, led by sophomore Hannah Hockerman and South Beloit freshman Madison Carlson, create havoc for opposing lineups.
“I feel like I’m the type who likes pressure a lot more,” said Carlson. “It just gets my blood pumping, and I like feeling the adrenalin. I love those situations.”
RVC catcher Jenna Green knows what these pitchers are capable of doing. “This pitching staff is good. We have a couple solid pitchers. I trust every single one of them out there. They’re going to go out there and give it their all.”
Overall, this team has all the components needed to say ‘So long’ to Division III in the best way possible, on top.
“Yea, I think so,” said Riordan. “We have the motivation and the determination to finish it off strong.” The brackets for the national tournament will be revealed on Sunday. The Tournament will start on Wednesday.