Hosting multiple practice sessions and conditioning after games has not worked for the Monarchs, as the lack of practice for the team as a whole has caused success to plummet.
By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor
Limited depth, an unorthodox practice schedule and beat-up pitchers have caused the Monarchs to drop their last four games as they drift further away from the rest of the Western State Conference.
Losing 18 of their 24 games this campaign, Valley College softball (6-18, 0-6 WSC East) has proven that their lack of practice as a group coupled with the sporadic absence of coach Greg Venger is not a winning recipe. Practice is not enforced due to the players’ off-field responsibilities, though the coaches’ pre and postgame pep talks show an attempt to replace the bonding that would normally occur during training. This lack of togetherness has contributed to this defeat-filled season for the Monarchs.
“We’re all student-athletes,” said sophomore pitcher Sidney Hernandez. “We have to go to school, some of us work full time and some of us work part time. It’s just a lot on us, it’s very stressful. And the mental aspect of the game, it takes a lot to make sure you’re on the field on time. As our coaches state, ‘it’s like clocking in for work,’ we just have to clock in, and that’s something that we haven’t been doing.”
The Monarchs can be seen practicing or conditioning postgame, which is occasionally the only time the entire roster is on the field.
Oftentimes, assistant coaches Brianna Velasquez and Andrea Contreras bat and catch while the short-handed Monarchs practice defense. Not enough players show up to cover all nine positions, so the team has to improvise.
“The girls do have obligations to work so we try to work around it and we usually have two sessions of practice,” said Velasquez. “The first session will be the girls who can make it in the afternoon, and me and coach Andrea would stay later and the second group would come in.”
Many of Valley’s losses could be attributed to self-inflicted mistakes.
Being outscored 68-9 in their last six losses, struggles on the field have seen the Monarchs fall apart. In their home loss against Citrus College, six runs were brought in by walks or wild pitches in a game that, until the sixth inning, was close.
With only part of the team coming to each practice, the pitchers have a limited amount of hitters they can practice pitching to.
Whichever way the story of the down year can be spun, the Monarchs’ 18 losses are not just placed on the players’ backs, but on the coaches as well.
Head Coach Greg Venger’s professional duties, including his job as athletic director at Cleveland High School and role as associate head coach for Valley women’s soccer, have caused him to spend less time with the team.
According to Venger, he is unavailable for practices due to helping the team.
“It’s because I’m out recruiting,” said the two-sport coach. “I’m going out to high schools, recruiting early, because during the fall, we only had three or four players at practice and because of that, we are behind. A lot of the players on our team are older, even some of the freshmen, and they might not return after this semester. So I’m recruiting ahead of time.”
Contreras and Velasquez take care of the training while Venger acts in more of an advisory role for the team, preparing for next season to avoid similar issues in 2023.
Meanwhile, the Monarchs are trying to clean up their season, kickstarting their last stretch of the campaign with back-to-back walk-off victories against Barstow College.
“We just have to execute what we practice,” said sophomore right fielder Caitlyn Pineda. “It’s just not happening right now.”