Jaguars softball on national map

Players rewarded with academic and athletic recognitions

Jaguars softball player Adriana Martinez, No. 22, prepares to bat. Martinez has a .299 batting average for the season.

Video by Juan Cortez and Madison WIlber / Times Staff

The San Jose City College softball team was ranked No. 14 in the nation in the 2020-2021 school year by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

The team was recognized for athletic as well as academic achievements.

“I am excited for the student-athletes. These young women have committed to their academics,” coach Debbie Huntze-Rooney said.

The Jaguars started the 2021 season against Fresno with a victory on Saturday, April 10. They then ended their season with an overall record of 19-6.

“It’s great to hear that we are not just doing great on the field but also in the classroom,” said Jessell Lewis, 20, pitcher and SJCC student, majoring in sociology, and who made the 2021 All-Conference First Team. “Just to see all the hard work that we put in is paying off is amazing.”

Lewis said that last season was strange because of the pandemic.

On March 12, 2020, the California Community College Athletic Association suspended activities for spring sports indefinitely, forcing a sudden halt to college sports.

“I really pride myself in academics before athletics. It was a big deal to me, especially since I worked really hard in high school, too,” said Taylor Fowler, 20, first base and SJCC student majoring in kinesiology. “I’m just glad I can carry it into college.”

Fowler, a 2020-21 Easton/NFCA All-American Scholar-Athlete, spoke about how the short season made it difficult for the group to build chemistry before the season started. But the players and coaches worked really hard to prepare for the 2021 spring season.

“We definitely have more time,” Fowler said. “We are just trying to be conditioned through the fall so that we limit the injuries and we’re more prepared going into the games.”

For some student athletes, this was a major achievement in the family history.

“I’m a first-gen student, and I remember my first reaction when I heard about it was to tell my parents because it is a huge accomplishment,” Malaya Street said, 21, outfielder and SJCC student, majoring in communications

Street, who was awarded with Academic All-State Student-Athlete and 2021 All-Conference First Team, said the team and coaching staff prioritize academics and that they have study hall hours and grade texts. Street said if any one of them struggles, coach Debbie Huntze-Rooney is always there to help.

When the temporary suspension was still in place, practices and conditioning were done through Zoom. Now that college sports have resumed, the teams can come together and renew their activities.

“It’s a lot more fun than it was last year,” Street said. “I actually think we are a lot closer than we were last year, especially since we finally get to be together.”

Also among those awarded Academic All-State Student-Athletes was Kyana Elders, 20, third-base, short-stop and an SJCC student, majoring in kinesiology.

“I was really proud of myself and all of the team,” Elder said. “School comes first and then softball because you can’t play without grades. Grades take you places, and the coach really enforces that.”

Huntze-Rooney said she admires the dedication of her players and their ability to achieve their goals, and the first thing she talks about with upcoming recruits is the academic standards for the team.

“That’s the biggest thing. When they come on a recruiting trip, the first thing is academics because that’s why we’re here,” Huntze-Rooney said. “It’s pretty well set; and if you want that kind of structure, this is the school to be in.”