SB: Freshmen adjust to life as student-athletes

Oct. 13, 2016

By Brooke Ortale |
ARLINGTON, Texas  - With the fresh morning dew of the grass and the silence of an early morning, freshman UT Arlington softball player Mariah Denson took to the field under the bright lights and dark skies for a 7 a.m. practice.
As the sun comes up over the left field wall of Allan Saxe Field, the Maverick newcomers have quickly realized that this is just one of the many things they have to endure as the best for UTA softball seems to be just over the horizon.
"People talk about college softball and they say its hard and in your head you have it as hard, but it's harder than you think," Denson said.  "If you can make it through that then you can make it through anything."
There are many perks that come with being a member of this tight-knit squad both on and off the field. The services and aid these young ladies receive at UTA are second to none and go along with the high standard that has been set as a member of the Maverick softball program.
"I like how much we are offered to do well in class," freshman infielder Avery Grimes said. "We get study hall, free tutors and our academic advisor Shannon helps us a lot with anything that we need. It's really convenient for everyone because it gives you the keys to be successful."
Not only are they provided with excellent academic tools but the facilities around UT Arlington are top notch. Allan Saxe Field is entering its third season since reconstruction and a new indoor batting cage and clubhouse have been added in recent years. The College Park Center opened its doors in 2012 and houses the Mavs' academic center as well as weight room amenities provided to the athletic programs.
"I love (the facilities )," Denson said. "Studying in the CPC and having mandatory hours keeps me on track. Coming to (Allan Saxe Field" when I want to pitch and get a workout in or just hangout with other people is great."
The journey of how the members of UT Arlington softball's freshmen class discovered UTA varies from person to person, but there are two common denominators that bring them together, passion for UTA softball and the ability to create a future they have envisioned for themselves with all that UT Arlington provides.
Prior to the arrival of head coach Kristie Fox in 2012, UTA did not have a single player from outside the state of Texas since the 2007 season (Laura Jones, Rouge River, Ore.). Fox has since broadened the competitive recruiting spectrum with ladies from all over the country. This year's roster boosts six athletes from out of state, including Brittany Wyllie, a freshman from Bonita, Calif.  
"I've always wanted to go outside of California and I liked the Texas feel," Wyllie said. I like how everyone is so tight here and I really like coming to a tight community for college. That's why I came to UTA.""
With the grind of the fall season, the goals set may seem light-years away to these new Mavericks, but there is always someone to lean on for support.

"It was hard at first because I wasn't used to waking up so early and being places so early," freshman middle infielder Melanie Mendoza said. "But having a roommate that's in softball has kind of helped with waking up and getting here on time and knowing when you have to do things."
While some have sisters on the team or family within a close vicinity of UTA, many have ventured far from their hometowns and have relied on a few of the upperclassmen to help guide them in the right direction.
"Definitely when I first got here and in the first week of August Sambo (senior pitcher Sam Montes) had texted some of us girls and toured us around the campus," Wyllie said.  "She's probably the one that's really helped me be comfortable with where my classes are and everything."
Montes has taken that leadership role with the youngsters and really embraced being that mother figure some of them.
"I'm that way with them becuase I know how tough and hard your freshman year can be," Montes daid. It's a huge adjustment and I want them to know they have somebody in their cotner. I want to help them anyway I can."

With the Mavericks almost finished with their fall season, there has been much to build on as well as lessons learned.

"I have learned to not take any days off," Grimes said. "Every single day you need to do something to get better. I know everyone says that, but every single day you need to do something to make yourself better than somebody else because they are working hard too."




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