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Stronger Than Ever
Heading into the 2013 Big South Softball Championship, Liberty softball aims to make another title run, as the Lady Flames return to the site of their last Big South title, Rock Hill, S.C. The Lady Flames last won the championship in 2011, marking the second time the team won the Big South Championship under Coach Paul Wetmore.
Rock Hill, S.C. has been the site of both of the Lady Flames' championships during Wetmore's 20-year head coaching career at Liberty, as the team also won in 2002. Liberty softball has appeared in the conference final three out of the last five years, while also playing in the title game in 1998 and 2000.
Seven members from the 2011 championship appear on this season's roster for the Lady Flames. Juniors Sammi Shivock and Katie Zavodny both made major contributions to the championship team of 2011 and are looking forward to winning another. Shivock was named to the Big South All-Tournament Team in 2011 after hitting two game-winning home runs in the conference tournament, while Zavodny posted two two-hit games during Liberty's last championship run in Rock Hill.
"My expectation for the tournament is to come back to Lynchburg as champions. There is absolutely no reason in my mind why we should not attain this goal. Our team is very closely knit, and has more than enough ability to go far in the tournament," said Shivock.
Zavodny said, "My expectations for this weekend are so high. We all are pumped to get out there. The tournament is so fun to me because we all get to start over and are all on an even playing field. Anyone can win it. It just depends on who shows up."
Both players have battled back from major injuries during the 2012 campaign to lead the Lady Flames this season. After her injury required off-season shoulder surgery, Sammi found herself unable to play in the field and transitioned to designated player.
When asked how she handled this transition, Shivock stated, "I really struggled throughout the fall. Softball is extremely important to me, and it was very hard to me to be sidelined in the fall, let alone thoughts of being sidelined during season." Relying on friends, family and faith, she realized, "God put me in this position for a reason. Once I came to this realization, things got a lot easier to deal with."
Shivock hits .327 while leading the Lady Flames with career highs of 13 doubles and 42 RBIs in 2013. She was named to the 2013 Capital One Academic All-District III Team, and was also voted Big South Softball Player of the Week on April 15.
A hand injury ended junior Katie Zavondy's season in 2012 when she squared around to bunt during an at bat. "Coming back after my injury was scary, to be honest. I really was scared I was not going to be the same player. I was nervous that I would be scared to bunt again or face an inside pitch. But God allowed me to come back stronger than ever."
Zavodny truly has come back stronger than ever, as the junior has set or tied four Liberty softball program records this season. The 2012 All-Big South performer has broken the single-season record for stolen bases with 41. Also, Zavodny set a program record with five hits, doing so twice this year.
Both athletes have taken on leadership roles, along with Liberty's lone graduating senior, outfielder Jill Stephens. Set to graduate in 2014, Shivock and Zavondy are looking forward to their future careers.
Shivock, majoring in sport management will look to become a community relations director in professional baseball or football. The junior has plans to work with minor and major league baseball teams over the summer as well as a Division I football team this fall.
Zavodny, majoring in communications with a specialization in public relations/advertising, plans to work in professional sports with a marketing agency.
The Lady Flames return to the field tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., in a first round matchup against third-seeded Longwood at Winthrop's Terry Field.
Written by Danny Smith, an intern in the Liberty University Athletics Communications office