Fall marks return of Cobras softball, volleyball

Photo provided by Softball Coach Chuck Clutts | Softball players warm up before a game.

Photo provided by Softball Coach Chuck Clutts | Softball players warm up before a game.

EvyJo Compton

Staff Writer

Parkland’s softball and volleyball teams are both going into fall with the hopes of winning, as well as being prepared to face the challenges ahead.

Sophomore Shelby Youngblood and Freshman Tori Witruk are two softball players with high hopes for the season.

“I’m excited to see everyone come together on the field as one, and to see our strengths and weaknesses,” said outfielder Youngblood. “That way we can start working on our weakness, and growing from our strengths.”

“I’m a freshman, which means I haven’t been here very long,” Witruk, a second-baseman, said. “I think that, already into the season, we have some really good team chemistry. I’m excited to see it grow and see us take on our rivals and play like a team.”

Both the volleyball and softball head coaches are excited for what the upcoming season will bring. Both teams have already started their season and are now moving forward towards their goals.

“We don’t start until four days after school starts. We had six days of practice, because we had a triple header last weekend,” said Chuck Clutts, coach of Cobras softball. “We had four days of practice this week, and we will have to play five games this weekend.”

Clutts praised the efforts of his team’s players, but stressed the need for multiple practices to hone their skills.

“The girls work hard,” he said. “It’s a lot of learning, but obviously, they cannot retain everything we tell them in one go, so that’s what we have multiple practices for. It takes a couple of times for things to set in when you’re learning anything.”

Cobras volleyball has boasted an undefeated record so far this season.

“We return two starters from last year’s team; Fia Willis and Bailee Dunne. The rest of the sophomores gained extensive experience from last year, but this is their first opportunity to be primary players on the team,” said Cliff Hastings, head coach of the volleyball team. “As far as this year goes, we are already 11–0.”

With any sport comes challenges, but both the volleyball and softball teams are prepared to face any challenges that the season brings.

“I’m sure we’ll have challenges, but really it comes down to how we handle them,” Youngblood said. “Our charisma on the field will really help us work out any challenges we may face.”

“In terms of challenges, we have a bit smaller of a roster this year, and while we’re quite talented, we’re not as deep at each position,” Hastings said. “So, while we need to stay focused on developing the girls mentally and physically, we also need to balance that with carefully taking care of their bodies and avoiding injury [or] illness to the best of our abilities.”

Hastings and Clutts expect a lot out of their players and are excited to see what the future holds.

“We were very excited about our matches last weekend with Catawba Valley and Grand Rapids,” Hastings said. “Those are always two big opponents for us. Coming up, we have important matches against Top 10 teams at the Kirkwood Tournament and then in-region matches against Lincoln Land and Illinois Central.”

Softball’s Clutts makes no bones about what he’d like to see from his team.

“We expect a win,” he said. “I am very pleasantly pleased with what we’re seeing so far with our players. They’re softball smart, they work hard, they make mistakes but they’re quick to correct them. They try their hardest at practice. What more could I ask for? First off, we really want them to do well with their academics. Then, we want them to play good softball.”

Sports at Parkland are meant to instill character into players, Clutts says, and help them become better people on and off the field. Sports can also prepare players for the real world.

“For me, I think it’s amazing seeing the players grow,” Clutts said. “From freshman to sophomores, there’s a lot that can change a person and their game. We try to teach them about what the real world is going to be like. […] It’s just so much fun to see them grow as softball players, as teammates and as young adults.”

Youngblood and Witruk echo Clutts’ notion of the college’s sports and the importance they place on players’ personal growth.

“It has pushed me to become a better person on the field and off the field,” Youngblood said. “You learn how to deal with people, and it sets you up to deal with coworkers. Personally, I have taken the role of leader in the outfield, and I feel that it will help me with my future career.”

“I haven’t been here very long and I’m not a super talkative person, but our team is super talkative and loud,” Witruk said. “It kind of forced me to speak up a little bit which is something important. In the real world, you’re going to have to know how to communicate with other people.”

For more information about Cobras softball and volleyball teams, go to parkland.edu/athletics.