The DeForest prep softball team has put together an impressive string of six straight Badger North Conference titles. The Norskies will not have the opportunity to add to the remarkable streak this spring, as the WIAA has cancelled the 2020 spring sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is the daily interactions and being part of a team that we miss the most,” Norski coach Jerry Schwenn said. “As coaches, we miss being able to help the kids set goals and work on them. We are all craving personal interaction.”
The season was cancelled before the first practice.
“We had a good group of returning players and some new faces, so we were excited about the season,” Schwenn said. “The girls are hurting and frustrated. I feel for them.”
The Norskies finished 23-5 overall last season. They were a Badger North Conference-best 14-0.
“We hoped to build off of last year, which was one of our best seasons as a program,” Schwenn said. “Just a couple plays here or there kept us from a great season.”
DeForest claimed a regional title before dropping a 3-2 heartbreaker to Verona in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal.
“We were a safe call away from tying the game against Verona, so that was a tough loss,” Schwenn said. “Our sectional was loaded last year. We were all teams who were recognized at the state level.”
Schwenn knows there was no guarantee the Lady Norskies would have claimed another conference title, but they had the talent to be in contention.
“We had a few more unknowns than usual with new players stepping into now roles, but we were returning four of our top five hitters from last year,” Schwenn said. “I thought we would be a good offensive team this season. I was excited to see some new players get their time. I wanted to see what they could do.”
The cancelling of the season is the toughest on DeForest’s senior group of Taylor Tschumper, Taylor VonBehren, Michaela McFall, Lexie Newman and Sam Schaeffer.
“The seniors and this team have a passion for softball,” Schwenn said. “The seniors have been part of some really big games in our program’s history. They were destined to impact this year’s team. It is a small class, but three are moving on to play college sports.”
Tschumper and VonBehren were both first-team all-conference selections last season. Both have been selected as Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association all-stars, but the game will not be played this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
VonBehren and Tschumper will both continue their careers at Madison College next season.
Schwenn is hopeful the underclassman on his squad can continue to improve despite not having a season.
“We have a strong tradition of our seniors passing the torch to the younger players on what we expect and how we deal with things as a program,” Schwenn said. “Our youngers players will not have that leadership this season, so we will see how it affects us going forward. I think everyone is ready to get back on track.
Schwenn expects some players will play club softball this summer, but it will not be the same.
“We have a lot of club sport athletes, but there is no bigger pride than representing your school,” Schwenn said. “The girls really value the opportunity to play as a school program. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out, because all of the kids in the program lost a quarter of their high school careers. But, we will all work hard and when we get back together, we will make up for lost time.”
The Lady Norskies may still get together as a program, as the WIAA is allowing for a 30-day contact period this summer.
“We have to wait and see about the 30-day contact period,” Schwenn said. “There has been some initial communications with other conferences on what will happen during this time, but we are waiting for more direction from the Badger Conference and our school administration.”
For now, the Norskies will continue to communicate as a team virtually.
“We have set up a number of Google meets for the team,” Schwenn said. “We have provided weekly workouts, so that we don’t get too far behind. We want to keep giving the kids coaching.”