SCHENECTADY — When she found out earlier this year that Union College’s spring sports teams would get the chance to play, sophomore Olivia Valery was sitting in the school’s library with softball teammates Julia Boule and Anna Zdunczyk.
“And we all screamed in the library,” Valery, laughing as she remembered, said Thursday in a phone interview.
They received a “couple looks,” but also a “couple thumbs up” from onlookers who understood the good news Valery and other Union athletes had just received. Union athletics ended up going more than a year without a competition due to concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, so a spring season in 2021 wasn’t guaranteed to Valery and Co. until early March.
Once able to play, Valery made the most of an opportunity she’d waited for since enrolling at Union in 2019. In last weekend’s season-opening doubleheader against Skidmore, the sophomore third baseman made her college softball debut with a 2 for 4 effort, then batted 4 for 4 with five RBIs in the second game of Union’s sweep. Valery had a double and a triple in the second game.
“As a team, we’d been really working hard for the past year-and-a-half,” said Valery, who was named Liberty League Softball Rookie of the Week this past Monday. “I think we were all so excited to get out there and put all the hard work out onto the field. We have a really good team dynamic, so we all wanted to do it for each other.
The 20-year-old Valery — a Millbury, Massachusetts native who is majoring in biology — credited the team’s coaching staff, Michelle Connors and Kara Kolonsky, for making sure the team was ready to play. Union returns to action Saturday with a home doubleheader against Rochester that starts at 1 p.m.
Last year, Union was a couple days away from heading to Florida for spring training when the team found out its season had been canceled. That stung, but Valery said the experience of the last year provided ample motivation for the club this season.
“It’s just amazing. We’re really lucky that we’re able to play,” Valery said.
After her strong debut, Valery said she feels a “little bit of pressure” to live up to her great start.
“But I also have confidence going into this weekend, too, because of it,” Valery said.