Hopes to reach the softball playoffs for Judson (Converse)
dimmed considerably when an elbow injury at the start of the season sidelined three-year starting pitcher Emily Mueller
for 25 games.
Aside from her importance in a key position on the field, Mueller's experience had thrust her into the role of team leader.
But through the struggles of February and well into March, Judson coach Theresa Urbanovsky refused to let her players concede to fate.
Mueller's return a month ago provided a glimmer of a chance for a run at the final playoff spot from District 25-5A. And when Judson defeated New Braunfels 2-0 on the road last Tuesday, the challenge had been met. The Rockets (12-20) indeed became a playoff team.
In recognition for engineering Judson's drive to the playoffs, Theresa Urbanovsky was named the San Antonio High Yield Coach of the Week presented by Capital One Bank.
"We just kept emphasizing that all our hard work in the off-season was going to pay off,'' Urbanovsky, in her 12th season at Judson, said. "I kept telling the girls that things will fall into place. Sometimes it helps to be humbled. It was probably tougher on the parents because we are so used to winning.''
The coach said she relied on her spiritual faith to get through the adversity.
"I stopped getting caught up in the coaching and just prayed God would protect and take care of my team,'' she said. "I did not pray for wins, I just prayed for us to be strong.''
The turning point was a 9-6 victory in the first meeting with New Braunfels on March 26, which coincidently marked Mueller's return. Judson broke loose with six runs in the first three innings.
"We showed a toughness in that game,'' Urbanovsky said. "After that, everyone played the last half of the district season extremely well.''
Still, playoff hopes rested on last week's rematch with New Braunfels. Mueller called on experience to work her way out of trouble, backed by an airtight defense.
Offensively, Kelly Ayala
staked Judson to a 1-0 lead with a first-inning RBI single and two innings later a sacrifice fly by Brenda Iparraguirre
accounted for the final run.
Judson and New Braunfels finished with 4-6 records in the ultra-competitive 25-5A, but Judson earned the playoff berth by virtue of its two-game sweep of the Unicorns in head-to-head play.
"Our record doesn't define who we are,'' said Urbanovsky as she gets her team ready for its fresh start in the playoffs. Judson will face Johnson (San Antonio)
, the top seed from District 26-5A.
Urbanovsky discounts the notion that now the drive to make the playoffs has been reached, her team will lose its edge.
"We're far from reaching our goal,'' she said. "We were 17-1 at one point last season and had a disappointing finish. There are a lot of things we still want to accomplish this year.''
Urbanovsky, who hails from LaGrange, excelled athletically in volleyball as an outside hitter and as a shortstop/third baseman in softball at St. Mary's University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude.
For the St. Mary's softball team, Urbanovsky played third base and made throws to her sister, the team's first baseman. Theresa was a two-time Academic All-American and chosen to all-regional and all-conference teams. The team had national championship appearances in all three of her seasons.
She later became St. Mary's softball head coach in addition to serving as volleyball assistant coach and was received Coach of the Year honors.
For two years starting in 2003, Urbanovsky served as a part-time coach at Trinity University.
Her current duties at Judson include physical education department head.
The coach doesn't measure her role strictly in terms of wins and losses.
"I want our players to become strong, confident women that feel they can do whatever they want to do,'' Urbanovsky said.