Cougars’ Hawaii trip isn’t just fun in sun

Columbia College is playing eight games against strong opponents.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:47 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

For spring break, Megan Kuntze wants to go snorkeling.

Krista Viefhaus wants to escape the drizzle and work on her tan.

They will have ample opportunity when they are in Hawaii this week playing with the Columbia College softball team.

The Cougars, ranked No. 10 in the NAIA, will play four doubleheaders against NCAA Division II opponents Brigham Young, Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific in Honolulu and Laie, Hawaii.

Cougars pitcher Monica Mueller said the tough competition could be beneficial.

“We’ve been playing really well and if we can get a lot of wins that will really help us,” she said. “Plus, it will make the trip a lot better.”

The Cougars (14-3), who play most of their games in the Midwest, said they are beyond being excited about the trip.

“It’s going to be great,” Viefhaus said. “We are so psyched. We’re going to have a lot of fun. I’ll be glad to be in the warmth instead of the cold. I would say it’s a feeling of overwhelming excitement.”

Although traveling by plane is the norm for bigger schools, this will be Columbia College’s first airplane trip of the season. The trip is considered a reward for the seniors. Traveling over spring break, though, is nothing new for the Cougars, who have played in Pensacola, Fla. and Orlando the past two years. This is the second time the Cougars have competed in Hawaii.

The trip, which will cost almost $25,000, has been in the planning stages since early last year because the Cougars had to raise most of the funds.

The Cougars sold magazines, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and candy bars to raise money.

Mueller said a larger fan base would have helped the Cougars’ efforts.

“It was frustrating for awhile because we only know so many people here,” she said. “We felt kind of bad asking the same people over and over again to buy things. Our parents helped out a lot though.”

Kuntze said that despite the difficulties, the work was worth it.

“We have put a lot of time into raising money and it is all going to pay off,” Kuntze said.

When the Cougars aren’t playing, they will be tourists. Coach Wendy Spratt said she has no itinerary because she wants to let the players choose what they want to do. She said the players will have many options, but that they would probably go snorkeling, visit a pineapple plantation and attend a dinner cruise.

Spratt has one stipulation though.

“The only thing I require is that they go to Pearl Harbor,” she said. “It’s a great history lesson. Other than that, I’m just kind of along for the ride; except when we are playing.”

Although some coaches might be concerned about discipline on such a long trip, Spratt has no qualms.

“This is a great group,” she said. “They’re really focused when they need to be. On the other hand, they also have a lot of fun.

“What’s great is that they all pitch in and help. They are really laid back and just go with the flow. They’re a great group to travel with.”

That cohesiveness has translated to on-field success for the Cougars, who have won 11 straight. During their winning streak, the Cougars’ hitting and pitching has improved.

Viefhaus hit three home runs last week but wasn’t nominated for the American Midwest Conference Player of the Week award. Spratt said it was hard to pick one player to nominate.

“I had four other girls that I would have nominated any other week,” she said. “That’s a good problem to have.”

Said Viefhaus, “We are playing so well right now. We’ve all taken it up a notch.”

Mueller and Kuntze have played vital roles in the Cougars’ recent success.

Mueller, a junior, went 5-0 last week with 39 strikeouts and didn’t give up any earned runs. Her performance earned her the NAIA Pitcher of the Week award.

Kuntze, a senior third baseman, also was effective, hitting .448, scoring 14 runs, driving in five RBIs and stealing six bases. She was named the conference Player of the Week.

“They’ve done an outstanding job,” Spratt said. “Hopefully they (will) continue to as the season goes on.”

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