Tommy Deas

Softball players find ways to excel in all four Cs

by Tommy Deas May 26, 2011 in Softball


It doesn’t take a village to make a difference, but it can start with one.

Take a look at the 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award in softball. They come from places ranging from Roanoke, Va., to West Hills, Calif., from Port Coquitlan, B.C., in Canada to Pembroke Pines down in Florida. They have more than softball in common. They are bound by the four Cs—community, classroom, character and competition. With those common characteristics, each has made an impact in her own way.

Here is a look at the 10 finalists, with the four Cs in mind:

Danielle Zymkowitz, an infielder from West Hills, Calif., came to the University of Illinois to play, but the Academic All-Big Ten communications major stayed to learn.

“Classroom is a place that allows people to gain knowledge and become a better person,” she said. “I originally selected the University of Illinois because I felt I could make a big impact through softball, since that is what I was most passionate about. Very quickly I learned how prestigious this university was.

“As a competitive person, I felt that I had to rise to the challenge and worked very hard in school and at softball. Both of these environments were classrooms for me. The softball field is a classroom that teaches me teamwork, competition and leadership skills. The academia at the University of Illinois is a classroom that will impact the rest of my life. Receiving a degree from a top-tier academic institution like Illinois will have an effect on me long after wearing the Orange and Blue.”

Jenn Salling, the Canadian infielder at the University of Washington, is a competitor. She batted .352 as a junior and earned All-America recognition. She was named her team’s offensive MVP and was a top 25 finalist for national player of the year honors. As a sophomore she won a national championship with the Huskies, but she has also showed her competitiveness on a broader scale, playing for Team Canada in the World Cup.

University of Florida pitcher Stephanie Brombacher, who hails from Pembroke Pines, Fla., has shown her character on and off the field. She worked through an injury to her throwing arm in the 2011 season, but remained a team leader while she was sidelined.

“Everyone has character,” Brombacher said. “It is our choice to decide to make it good or bad. Integrity, respect, loyalty, responsibility, compassion and citizenship are traits that portray good character. Our true character shines when no one else is looking. It’s the principle of doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Our family, coaches, teammates, teachers and others who impact our lives can instill character in us. It is never too late to improve your life and others through developing your character.”

Chelsea Kelley, a pitcher from Roanoke, Va., plays for Radford University. Softball feeds her love of competition.

“To me, competition is the rush and excitement of the game,” she said. “Who would want to play a sport that had no competition? Competition creates an atmosphere in which your mind can go blank and your body takes over and all that matters is the game. It allows you to do things that you never thought possible.”

University of Georgia third baseman Alisa Goler is from Frankfort, Ill., but she has been involved in the community in Athens, Ga., in many ways. She created and implemented recreation programs for children and also had a role in putting on a charity golf tournament that raised $2,500 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Athens.

“I feel that giving back to the community is one of the most important things you can do as a student-athlete, especially in an upper-echelon Division I program,” Goler said. “The community and fan base is part of the reason we play, so giving back is kind of a way of saying thanks to them for supporting us, and in the grand scheme of things, we are very lucky with what we get to do. I feel really blessed to get to play here and to be able to give back to somebody less fortunate, whether it’s the humane society, the Special Olympics or a homeless organization, it gives you that good feeling at the end of the day and that’s really what we’re all about.”

Georgia Tech’s Kristine Priebe, a first baseman from Moorspark, Calif., has used her athletic scholarship to further her career ambition. She carries a 3.04 grade-point average in the classroom and will graduate with a public policy degree, but wants to become a firefighter. She is already a Certified First Responder and plans to intern with the fire department after her softball career is over. Priebe’s mother was one of the first paid female firefighters in California.

April Sutterlund, an outfielder from Torrance, Calif., took her competitive spirit to Boston University and had one of the best seasons in the program’s history as a junior. A three-time America East All-Conference selection, she also earned Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I All-America status—a first for a Boston University player. She ranked fifth nationally in batting average (.482) and on-base percentage (.579) and also ranked in the top 10 in slugging percentage (.861) and runs per game (1.11). A left-handed hitter, she broke single-season school records for hits, doubles, RBIs and runs.

Another University of Georgia athlete, outfielder Taylor Schlopy of West Hills, Calif., would probably have earned a ride on an academic scholarship if she hadn’t accepted an athletic scholarship from the Bulldogs. She is the recipient of the Jimmy and Barbara Turner Athletic Scholarship, majoring in child and family development. A three-time dean’s list honoree, she was twice been named to the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll.

“The classroom means a lot to me because succeeding there is part of building one’s character,” Schlopy said. “I believe academics to be tremendously important, so I strive for excellence in work ethics and grades. This quality translates to hard work on and off the field. I want to do my best in every endeavor I take on, so the classroom is a vital step that I am climbing towards my future and the aspirations that I have.”

At the University of Arizona, outfielder Brittany Lastrapes of Laguna Niguel, Calif., has taken part in community projects with the Wildcats softball team, but she has also done community work on her own. Lastrapes has talked about the important of academics to a youth softball team and at several elementary schools in the area, telling them about life as a student-athlete and how to succeed in college. She has also gone to University Medical Center to visit hospitalized youngsters and done yard work to help out at a home for low-income senior citizens.

University of Michigan first baseman Dorian Shaw of Burke, Va., has displayed her character as a team leader for the Wolverines, but also through wider university involvement. She is vice president for UM’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and has also participated in the school’s Leaders for Life and Leadership Academy. She was voted a team captain in 2011 by her teammates.

In the classroom, in the community, on the field in competition and through their character, the 2011 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award in softball are making a difference.