By Mekayla Marshall
Amid uncertainty for a complete athletic season last year at the Xavier University of Louisiana, the university launched a new softball program. Last year, Leslie Ballard and LSU standout, Shemaiah Sanchez, coached the first-ever softball team at the Xavier University of Louisiana.
“Last year, we had a lot more challenges not knowing if we were going to play because of COVID,” Ballard said. “We’ve had a few scares, one that resulted in canceling a series of games.”
Considering this is the first colligate softball program in New Orleans, this was very exciting for the university. The team went 8-13 for the 2021-2022 season, with a team batting average of .244. It is not bad for the first season considering more than half of their games were canceled due to weather and COVID-19.
“However, we have a great foundation to go off, and the transition has been smooth,” Ballard said. I believe the vaccination has had some impact on COVID not being an issue this season.”
Chenai Keyes, a transfer junior from Meridian Community College in Meridian, Mississippi, echoes coach Ballard’s sentiments.
“I feel pretty confident with this season, and COVID has not stopped anything,” Keyes said.
After last year’s start on the first-year program, she had some work to do over the summer to have another successful season.
Xavier is known for its rigorous academic curriculum, especially in the pre-med field. For athletes, this meant that you have to spend just as much time, if not more time, in studies.
“I had to change my coaching regiments because of how the university operates dealing with student-athletes,” Ballard said. “I had to be more understanding that the academic side is very rigorous for certain majors.”
COVID-testing is very well known around Xavier’s campus. However, athletes had to get tested the most due to traveling to other opponents.
This year, they have slightly let up on the COVID-19 testing for athletes due to the vaccine status.
Some athletes feel that they do not have to do COVID-testing after a game because they had to receive the booster shot. Some other colleges they go to may not take COVID-19 precautions as seriously as XULA.
Mecolett Bradley, captain of the softball team, feels they should continue to test athletes.
“Last year, we would get tested weekly and before and after every game we played,” Bradley said.. “Now, we do not get tested unless someone appears to have symptoms,” Bradley added.