AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hendrickson softball is in the midst of a dream season.
“It’s kinda surreal,” Emily Klanika said. “We knew we could do it, but then it happened. It’s unbelievable”
After struggling to just win games a few seasons ago, the Hawks tore through the regular season this year, losing just one game, and earning a national ranking in the USA Today Super 25.
“I knew we were gonna do really well because the trend of improving, but it’s been super unexpected,” Hope Trautwein said.
“The fact that we’ve been able to accomplish this is really great, especially after everything we’ve been through,” Gabby Garcia said.
Because this year’s dream season started out as a nightmare when head coach Mike Wozniak unexpectedly passed away in September.
“The next day was probably the hardest day with having to talk to the girls,” Head coach Lindsay Eaton said. “All day was just crying, sharing memories, trying to celebrate his life, basically.”
But the pain of his death was eased by the same game that connected the girls to Coach Woz in the first place.
“It was really hard at first, but it’s gotten a lot easier with everyone being around,” Klanika said.
“The second we started to get out here, the more we were working out and being here, just, it started getting back to normal,” Eaton said. “He loved this. He loved the field, he loved the school. It’s special, and it’s better getting back into the game and knowing that he loved this so much.”
Just as the game gave them an outlet for their pain, his death gave them a purpose every time they stepped on the diamond.
“We were like, this season is for him. We’re gonna make him proud because he was so excited for this season, and so were we,” Klanika said.
“We do incredibly miss him, but as of right now, we’re just trying to be happy and not gloom about him because I know that’s what he would’ve wanted,” Garcia said. “He wants us to focus on the season instead of him.”
“We have a shared motivation,” Trautwein said. “Woz passing was a huge roadblock, and we have all bonded because of it, and and we’ve become stronger, and we have one motivation. We have a reason to play, and that’s to honor him.
“He’s with us. I guess we hope that he’s gonna be with us for the rest of the season and in life.”
A season that started in tragedy, that they hope ends in celebration.