A sister’s spark

Outfielder Tori Zavodny hopes to leave her own legacy

Not every freshman athlete can be expected to come in and make an immediate impact on their new team, but not every freshman is like Tori Zavodny.

Tori Zavodny began playing softball at the age of six, learning the basics and growing in her love for the sport as she grew older. As her skills improved, she joined a more competitive traveling league. Tori Zavodny played fast pitch for the North Carolina Lady Lightning Gold, and by her sophomore year of high school, she began to realize that playing collegiate softball was a definite possibility.

THIEF — Freshman Tori Zavodny leads all Lady Flames players with 17 steals.  Photo credit: Leah Seavers

THIEF — Freshman Tori Zavodny leads all Lady Flames players with 17 steals. Photo credit: Leah Seavers

“I was on the Lady Lightning and my coach was looking at schools that I could possibly go to, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m going to play softball in college. That’s crazy,’” Tori Zavodny said. “I started working really hard and looking at schools, and it just turns out that I got the ability to come (to Liberty).”

Although she watched her older sister Katie Zavodny play in the outfield for the Lady Flames, Tori Zavodny initially looked to pave her own way when she verbally committed to Charleston Southern.

“She came to our clinic, … but with me hearing that she had verballed somewhere else, I could not pursue her,” Liberty Head Coach Dot Richardson said.

The support and influence of her older sister proved to be the key. With the program shift and a new stadium on the way, Tori Zavodny chose to bring her talents to Lynchburg, and it is proving to be working out quite well. Inspired by her older sister’s attitude and approach to the game, Tori Zavodny reflected on some of the things she learned from watching her over the years.

“Just by watching (Katie Zavodny) play, I learned a lot from her,” Tori Zavodny said. “… She played in the moment, and she was just always having a ball no matter if they were winning or losing. She was really competitive, so it was really cool to see her and hopefully be like her too.”

Now it is Katie Zavody’s turn to watch her younger sister, and she gets to do that from the new Liberty Softball Stadium, something she was never able to
experience for herself.

“(Katie) is actually working in Lynchburg, so she gets to come watch, so it’s really cool to have her support,” Tori Zavodny said. “It is sad that she didn’t get to have any of this, but she still gets to tag along with me being here, so it’s pretty cool.”

Having already coached one Zavodny, Richardson was excited for the opportunity to keep that legacy alive at Liberty.

“Tori impressed us with just her passion for the game and her quickness and her ability offensively to be able to get the job done in many aspects of the game,” Richardson said. “She has the entire arsenal.”

Tori Zavodny has had to push herself in all new ways as a Division I athlete.

Balancing hours of lifting, conditioning and practice with classes and exams can be tricky, but she is fairing well with the help of her teammates and coaches.

“I think the whole student-athlete aspect is definitely the hardest part, but with my teammates, it’s really encouraging,” Tori Zavodny said. “They’re always willing to help.”

As her freshman campaign continues to progress, Tori Zavodny just keeps getting better. She is currently among the team leaders in batting average (.330), RBIs (10), and home runs (three).

Richardson said she is looking forward to seeing how Tori Zavodny continues to progress as a Division I athlete.

“There’s no reason that Tori cannot be a first-team All-American,” Richardson said. “She has the numbers, and it’s just a matter of her maturing in a way that mentally she continues to become stronger.”

CARTER is a sports reporter.

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