A repeat conference championship with an undefeated record and more than half the team receiving awards underscored an exciting season for Moraine Valley Community College softball.
Head Coach Ari Bulthuis doesn’t have enough words to describe her crew. They accomplished so much and played to a high level that raised the bar for the program.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better season. I would’ve liked to go to regionals, but there were so many highs,” Bulthuis said after her second season leading the program. “Going undefeated in conference was pretty bomb because last year we tied [for the championship].”
The Cyclones went 13-0 in the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference and had an overall 22-18 record. Among the highlights of the season was taking one game from Triton College, which was nationally ranked and competed this spring at nationals. That win also came right before region playoffs started, when the Cyclones battled through summer-like weather and injuries in a three-game series to end the season.
Despite all the winning, the Cyclones had a sluggish start to the year. They opened their schedule with a five-game losing streak before the coaches re-evaluated the team. “We weren’t playing our best, so we did a reset, put everything in perspective, reminded everyone to have fun, and it showed,” Bulthuis said. “The coaches had to step back, too, and change something. Everything changed for the better. To see where we were and where we ended was a 180.”
Collectively, the team batted a .355 with a .430 on-base percentage, and 11 players earned honors. Sophomore Danielle Travis (Lockport) earned Skyway MVP and nods to the All-NJCAA Region IV first team. She could track down any ball in the outfield and averaged .420 with 37 RBIs, 58 hits, 13 doubles and six homeruns. In her debut season with the Cyclones, Abigail Koran (Homewood-Flossmoor) was named Skyway Pitcher of the Year. On April 23, she threw a perfect game and finished the season (albeit injured) with 96 strikeouts and a 1.98 ERA.
Sophomores Abbie Wantroba (Sandburg), Alexandria Palumbo (Richards), Kara Riordan (Lockport) and Brianna Dvorak (Sandburg) were named to the All-Conference first team while freshmen Arianna Andersen (Oak Lawn), Emily Madrigal (Shepard) and Emily Manso (Evergreen Park) were named to the All-Conference second team. Sophomore pitcher Ashley Roberts (Homewood-Flossmoor) and freshman Emily Koprowski (Bremen) earned Skyway honorable mention. Wantroba and Dvorak also earned All-Region second team honors. Wantroba averaged .389 with 32 RBIs while Dvorak batted a .375 with 23 RBIs.
“Ashley stepped up a lot. She was a workhorse, especially the last games. She killed it. Koran was undefeated in conference. Wantroba and Dvorak, it’s hard losing those two because they were the glue for the team. Riordan played through injury all season. Travis was MVP and can track down a ball like no one’s business. All the freshmen, the whole team was great. If you’re not a team, you’re not going to win,” said Bulthuis, who earned her second consecutive Skyway Coach of the Year honor.
Even in the last two pivotal conference games to seal the championship, everyone on the roster made an impact either on the field or at bat. Players stepped up when needed, Bulthuis noted.
“They put their hearts on the field. They loved showing up to practice and playing games. When they weren’t doing well, they pulled themselves aside to regroup,” Bulthuis said. “It was such a fun and great season with a wild end and almost playing every day, and they were doubleheaders. I commend those players. All the power to them. They won those games.”
The Cyclones are saying farewell to seven sophomores but hoping to return the remaining seven freshmen and recruit more talent to maintain the winning program.
For updates on Cyclone Athletics, visit mvcyclones.com.
For news media inquiries, contact Maura Vizza, Moraine Valley communications specialist and sports information coordinator, at (708) 974-5742 or Vizzam@morainevalley.edu.