Spotlight on: Catholic University

This year, newcomer Catholic University Cardinals became the first team in CAN history to compete for the Primrose Cup in its first year in the league.

Coached by Ed Lafayette, a veteran in the league, several members played together in law school at the Northeast DC institution. Some other players had also previously played in CAN with their undergrad schools.

Catholic did not depend solely on its pre-made, tight-knit group.  “We got as many committed players as we could, then had our few undergrad players reach out to their friends from school,” Lafayette said. “ We also got a few people who just randomly emailed us through the CAN website, so that was helpful.”

Starting a new team from scratch has always been more difficult than being on an established team. Catholic also had the unique issue of being a local school with no true alumni club.  Their first step was to contact the university alumni office to get approval to start the team. The alumni office became, in effect, the alumni club, according to Lafayette.

With one (very successful) season under their belt, the team plans to use their access to the Catholic alumni office next year. “We didn't do any promotion through the school this year but we probably will try next year in order to recruit more people,” Lafayette said.

The team’s success means different things to different players.

“I've played on a bunch of softball teams in different leagues in the past, but this is the first one where it was truly just full of positive, fun people,” one player said. “We had a few tough games during the regular season, and obviously the championship didn't turn out like we wanted it to, but I can't remember one time during the season where anyone was arguing with a teammate or yelling at someone for making an error or where we felt like the game was out of reach. It's cliche, but everyone really did check their egos at the door. From my experience, that's a pretty rare thing to find on a softball team and it makes playing the game even more fun.”

Another player focused on what may become an annual tradition for the DC-area schools, saying their best memory was “Our weekend tripleheader victories against George Mason, George Washington, and American where we earned the vaunted DC Cup. All three of those teams are tough, but after we beat AU, who was a final four team in 2012, I knew we were in good shape for the tournament. Plus, at least we got to hoist one cup this year!”

Catholic also provided some levity at the tournament, when the Catholic Cardinal made a surprise appearance, and even coached first base during their game against NC State.

The team adjusted quickly to the social side of CAN, as well.

“My favorite memory was hanging out on the first weekend of the CAN tournament. It's the single greatest event of the year,” one player said.

“We play hard and we like to win, but when the games are over, we can kick back and play flip cup with the best of them,” another player said. “We set the bar pretty high for ourselves, but it's good to have something to shoot for next year.”

One Catholic player even hopes to be an inspiration to other alumni clubs. “I think we have a unique perspective to offer CAN.  We’re a smaller school (D-3), but we've got a talented, energetic, and fiery group of people who can compete with much larger schools.  I think that offers encouragement to smaller schools to continue participating in CAN and may even spur other smaller schools to join.”

With a second-place softball finish, Catholic may have inspired the whole league.