Writing HERstory: Hokies reach new heights

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Building something up has its highs and lows. Sustaining a high standard is difficult to do. Injuries. Getting out of a losing streak. New players gelling with older players. You name it. It's tough to keep the bar high.

But that's what Virginia Tech softball has been able to do.

Under the direction of head coach Pete D'Amour, whose first season in maroon and orange was 2019, the players have bought into a culture that is hard-nosed but selfless. Serious but a playful side. A drive to be great but an affection for one another. Just to name a few.

When asked on Sunday about this program following its fifth straight berth to the NCAA Tournament, senior Emma Ritter didn't talk about the wins, accolades or records. She talked about the players who have come through the program and focused on something bigger than themselves.

"The four years have gone by quickly and part of that reason is because the teams have stayed so even keel throughout the years," Ritter said. "And it's not just the fact that we have great softball players and great athletes – I feel so blessed to be able to play with amazing girls every single day – but the fact that we have such great women off the field. I think our team is so special this year, especially, where we have such a close-knit bond. I think that really motivates us to go out and play for each other."

Due to this togetherness that D'Amour has instilled in the program and those like Ritter who have been boots on the ground leading the charge of the vision, the program has been able to reach new heights – making it to the NCAA Tournament five years in a row for the first time in school history. And, really, it likely would have been six consecutive years, because the 2020 team's season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For context, they were 21-4, ranked No. 19 and had three ranked wins they earned at the iconic St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational.

Some of the former players who were on D'Amour's earlier teams are still around, with Jayme Bailey now a student assistant coach and Madison Hanson the program's director of player engagement. This has also helped keep the culture intact and these two have been a great resource for the younger players getting their feet underneath them. And now it's time for all sides to hit their stride as they begin their run to OKC.

Next up for Tech is a trip to California, a place some are familiar with. The last time the Hokies were in the Golden State was in 2021, when they faced UCLA in a Super Regional. A handful of current players were on that trip. It was their freshman year. Now, it's their time to create their own destiny. One pitch at a time.