Lessons learned: DSU seniors Adame, Huseby have experienced much in their careers
From a young age, athletes are told that participating in sports builds character and teaches life lessons. Dickinson State softball players Vanessa Adame and Jessica Huseby can attest to that. "Being in softball, I've actually come to the conclu...
From a young age, athletes are told that participating in sports builds character and teaches life lessons.
Dickinson State softball players Vanessa Adame and Jessica Huseby can attest to that.
"Being in softball, I've actually come to the conclusion that it does help you with life problems," Huseby said with a laugh. "It does help you grow. It's not just a myth."
Huseby and Adame are two of the Blue Hawks' four seniors and have played their entire careers at DSU. Huseby started in the 2008 season and Adame in 2009.
They've been there for three straight NAIA national tournament appearances, the departure of former coach Guy Fridley following the team's 42-5 season and third-place finish at the 2009 national tournament, the hiring of current head coach Kristen Fleury and, of course, the deaths of three teammates in November 2009.
"Over the years, it's been a battle up and down of course with the things I've gone through with the team, on the field and off the field," Huseby said. "But it's life and I wouldn't change it. I've learned. I've grown."
Adame and Huseby have been two of DSU's most productive players in their final season. Both were named to the final all-Dakota Athletic Conference team on Wednesday.
Their careers, however, could end this week.
DSU (23-20) faces Jamestown College at 9 a.m. MDT today in the Association of Independent Institutions Tournament. However, because of their statuses as NAIA independents, the Blue Hawks and Jimmies -- teams separated by about 200 miles -- had to go all the way to Columbus, Ga., to play the game.
The winner will play No. 2-ranked California State-San Marcos (47-4) at 11 a.m. while the loser moves to an elimination game Friday morning.
"Their leadership, what they've seen at Dickinson State University, through the program, we're definitely going to need them to step up and continue to lead our team as we hope to go further on into the season and make a run at the national tournament," Fleury said.
Both players have saved the best for last too.
Huseby is batting. 386 with four home runs, 35 RBI, a team-high three triples and seven doubles. She has a .332 career average with 85 RBI, 21 doubles and seven homers.
She missed the 2009 season -- the best in school history -- after tearing the ACL in her right knee. She was DSU's starting shortstop as a freshman but has played mostly third base and second base since.
It has been a banner year for Adame as well. The four-year starting center fielder is batting .336, mainly out of the leadoff spot, with career bests of six homers, 37 RBI and six doubles.
"I figured this is some of the last games I'm ever going to play in," said Adame, who has a .356 career batting average. "You know, whenever I'm up at bat, that's all I think of: This could be your last at bat, make it worth it."
That mentality, she said, began after the deaths of teammates Krystin Gemar, Ashley Neufeld and Afton Williamson in a car accident the fall of her sophomore year. The three, known affectionately amongst the team and the university as "A.K.A.," drowned after the car Gemar was driving went into a stock pond outside of Dickinson.
"After that, I know each one of us that were on the team looked at things a lot differently," Adame said. "Embrace every moment you have with each other because you just never know. I definitely came out of that situation appreciating my teammates a lot more."
Adame and Huseby are two of the five players remaining from the 2009-10 team that had to endure the heartache of losing their three teammates.
Huseby said the accident even inspired the team's rallying cry that began that season and continues today as the Blue Hawks' motto.
Before and after games, the team gathers and says, "A.K.A. We play with 12."
Huseby said the motto has taken on a new meaning in recent years and she hopes it is something the team will carry on after the players who established it are gone.
"If you knew them or not, you're playing for someone else," Huseby said. "You're playing for that person that maybe passed away that you knew somewhere. You're playing for someone else. It's not just about yourself. It made us grow without being selfish, that there's something bigger out there than yourself."
Fleury said Adame and Huseby have been excellent role models for the team's underclassmen because they have excelled beyond the standard the university sets for its athletes despite careers defined by extraordinary circumstances.
"That's one thing we always asked from our kids and they pushed that into the younger kids to represent the university and the softball program in a positive way, no matter the situation, no matter what anyone else was saying about it," Fleury said. "They're loyal, committed kids and they stuck through it."
All-Dakota Athletic Conference Team
Kate Johnson, Jamestown College, Jr., 1B; Angelique Macias, Mayville State, Sr., SS; Jessica Huseby, Dickinson State, Sr., 2B; Jane Pettit, Valley City State, Sr., 3B; Jessica Flores, Mayville State., Jr., OF; Heather Haegele, Jamestown College, Sr., OF; Katie Corbin, Mayville State., Sr., C; Taysia Kaufman, Dickinson State, Jr., P/OF; Janell LaRont, Dickinson State, Fr., SS; D.J. Johnson, Jamestown College, Jr., P; Regan Lawrence, Dickinson State, Fr., P; Katie McBride, Valley City State, Sr., P; Vanessa Adame, Dickinson State, Sr., OF; Erica Rush, Jamestown College, Sr., OF; Kelsie Jensen, Jamestown College, Sr., 3B; Elizabeth Beth-Still, Mayville State, Sr., 3B; Adrianna Boychuk, Valley City State, Jr., SS; Cyndi Figol, Valley City State, Sr., 2B.
Player of the Year: Kate Johnson, Jamestown College, Jr., 1B.
Most Valuable Senior: Heather Haegele, Jamestown College, Sr., OF.
Pitcher of the year: D.J. Johnson, Jamestown College, Jr., P.
Freshman of the Year: Janell LaRont, Dickinson State.
Coach of the Year: Kevin Gall, Jamestown College.