Last Updated: Thu Sep 28, 2023 - 2:24PM
Deciding on where you’ll be spending four years of your life can be a challenging process. For student-athletes looking to play at the next level, this is something they face constantly during recruitment.
For Belle Vernon Area’s Ava Zubovic, she was relieved to be done with the process.
“It feels like a huge stress coming off my shoulders,” the Leopards standout remarked. “Now, I’m able to go out there and play. I can spend my last year in high school with my best friends on the softball field.”
The senior middle infielder made her college commitment to continue playing softball at Mercyhurst, which competes in the PSAC.
“Mercyhurst has a strong business school, and that’s something I want to major in,” she noted of what drew her to becoming a Laker. “I also developed a strong relationship with Coach (Leanne) Baker and the players.
“The campus is absolutely beautiful, and the location is perfect for what I like to do. I love being outside and being outdoors. It really felt like home.”
With Mercyhurst checking all of the boxes on Zubovic’s list, she can shift her focus on the upcoming softball season. Her and her team are looking to repeat as WPIAL champions after capturing the Class 4A title last season.
But it wasn’t easy winning the program’s fifth softball championship. They had to endure quite the back-and-forth matchup with Montour in the title game.
“It was crazy,” she said. “In the last inning, there were two outs and we were up by a couple of runs. We had some wiggle room, but Montour was very persistent and would not give up.
“They brought it to 8-7. The only thing that was going through my mind was getting the last out, and that’s what we did. It was the best moment in my softball career, that last out in the championship game.”
However, despite all of the success that Zubovic and her teammates felt capturing that crown, there was something bigger they were playing for.
Longtime head coach Tom Rodriguez lost his wife earlier in the season. The entire team made the decision to dedicate the season to her.
“Mr. Rod is an amazing coach,” she noted. “The loss of his wife not only affected him, but the whole team because we are a family. We wanted to bring him a title.
With the 2023 season in the rear-view mirror, Zubovic and the Leopards look to reload and repeat as champions. But the team will have a target on their backs heading into the season, and Zubovic and her teammates are ready to embrace that feeling.
“We get in the locker room, weight room, on the field, and in the cage and we work until we get better,” the future Laker commented. “Yes, we won the WPIAL last year, but that doesn’t mean anything for this year. We have to stay humble, keep our heads down, and work to achieve the same thing.”
As her time wraps up at BVA, she anticipates beginning the next phase of her life and athletic career. However, she’s excited for more than just playing softball when she heads off to Mercyhurst.
“The Erie area has really good fishing, and I love going outside and fishing,” she shared. “I’m excited to meet new people, make new friends, and enjoy these cool experiences.”