Pack Softball Heads to Boston In Regular-Season Finale Series
April 26, 2013
NC State leads, 17-5
RALEIGH, N.C. – For NC State softball coach Shawn Rychcik and his assistants, Katie Grimes and Courtney Oliver, this weekend’s three-game trip to Boston College is a regular-season-ending homecoming to the city where they all began their coaching careers.
Except that they were all at lesser-known Boston University, an urban campus in the shadow of Fenway Park that is about three miles away from the Eagles’ home in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Though Rychcik and his Terrier teams were hardly underdogs to BC, their America East competition wasn’t usually on the same level as that of the Eagles’ in the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference.
But it was definitely the kind of emotional cross-town rivalry that fans along Tobacco Road are well-familiar.
And that’s one of the big reasons Rychcik made the jump to NC State last summer after 10 seasons at Boston U, two as an assistant coach and eight as a head coach. He led the program to three America East Tournament championships, four regular-season championships and three NCAA Regionals. But he was looking for a higher-profile position at a major conference.
He and his assistants have been looking forward to going back to Beantown all season, to end their inaugural season at NC State with a trip back to their old stomping grounds.
“From the first time I saw the schedule and saw that we were ending up there, I was excited about ending the regular season at Boston College,” Rychcik said. “Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to see a few friends that I haven’t seen in eight or nine months. There are so many good feelings of being in that city, because of all the time I spent there and all the things it gave me.”
Grimes, who played college softball at Hawaii, spent two seasons as an assistant under Rychcik and received a master’s degree from Boston University in 2012.
Oliver, who played and coached at Hofstra while also spending two seasons on Rychcik’s staff at BU, is a Boston native, whose parents still live in Swansea, Mass., about 45 minutes outside of the city. Both her younger siblings are in school in the Boston area.
For Rychcik, a native of Salamanca, N.Y., Boston quickly became home during his decade there as an assistant and head coach. After more than two decades of living a vagabond life as a professional softball player, from Florida to Wisconsin to New Zealand to Florida to Illinois, he settled in Boston, becoming a successful college coach. He was married while living there and both his sons were born in Massachusetts. It will always be a part of who he is.
“It’s so weird going back there and not being part of the city,” Rychcik said. “There was always a great rivalry between Boston University and Boston College, particularly in hockey. But we were definitely the lesser-known school in town.
“One of the reasons I came to NC State was because of the resources and opportunities we have to be successful. It will be nice to go to Boston College and not feel like we are in their shadow.”
Rychcik’s first Wolfpack team isn’t playing like an underdog to anyone, having won 13 of its last 15 games. He has infused the team with a dose of power, unlike anything the Wolfpack has had in its 10-year history.
Sophomore Renada Davis is tied for second nationally with 21 home runs, and the team has hit 64 on the season, just two away from the school record set in 2007. Senior Caitlin Dent has added a career-high 10, including a remarkable stretch earlier this month when she hit six homers in four days, including a three-run walk-off shot to beat No. 24 North Carolina.
And sophomore righthanded pitcher Emily Weiman has matured into one of the ACC’s most dominant pitchers. With a 25-16 record, she is just two wins away from the single-season school record, set in 2007 by former ACC Pitcher of the Year Abbie Sims.
Rychcik says he’s heading into the weekend with more emotion than he would have imagined, especially after watching countless hours of news coverage in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
“It was hard to watch, because everything was so familiar,” Rychcik said. “We know how strong the city of Boston is, and it will be good to go back this weekend and be among the many friends we made during our time there.”