Spectators for softball use a newly built plywood walkway to make their way to the newly installed right-field bleachers. Behind them is a construction site, a crane extending over their heads to shadow the field. It's clear the land itself is undergoing renovation, an apt visual metaphor for the team.
The Colonials took the field this season under the direction of a new head coach, after Kim Staehle retired following her fourth season at GW. Stacey Schramm took the helm following a disappointing 2010 season, where the Colonials won just six games and twice had streaks of eight games in which the team failed to score a single run.
Tuesday afternoon, the dugout atmosphere wasn't defeated or negative, a sharp contrast to what may have been expected after last year. Instead, the team frequently erupted in cheers, dancing and laughing in between innings. It was a picture of camaraderie, a sign of the changes Schramm has already brought to the program.
"Last year, it was a chore to come out to softball practice every day, this year you look forward to seeing your coach, you look forward to seeing your teammates, you look forward to pushing yourself to the next level because you know you're going to get better each day," senior third baseman Katie Terrazas said.
Schramm echoed her players' sentiments. She knows her team faces two battles, one on and the other off the field, and she's determined to overhaul GW's mentality.
"They often in the beginning were talking about last year, and we're moving forward. It's difficult when you lose 39 games and only win six. That mentality is tough to get over," Schramm said. "I think I'm helping them reach their potential and learning to expect more out of themselves. And helping them learn how to win, because I don't think they knew how to do that last year."
Early into the season, it's already clear that Schramm's style is producing results. GW has won 10 games and tied once, close to doubling its win total from the previous season. The Colonials have only been held scoreless twice, a far cry from past struggles.
"I think it's a different energy that I bring, and I think they were really craving it, too," Schramm said. "We're scoring a lot, every game, we're not getting shut out. We're giving ourselves a chance to win."
Schramm's players credit their recent success to the atmosphere she has created. When they're excited to play, they said, the results speak for themselves.
"It's fun this year, there's not really much else to say," junior catcher Jillian Stanley said. "Hitting's contagious. Couple of people get a hit, score a few runs, it continues, and we've carried it not just through one game but through multiple games."
"This year, we sat down at the beginning and really thought out specific goals," Terrazas said. "I think the mentality is a big factor in how we're producing on the field. Everybody's so relaxed, everybody's having so much fun."
Though it's early in the season, the Colonials have identified their focus: the Atlantic 10 Tournament. It's a lofty goal considering the team's recent history, but players and coach alike are confident in their rediscovered ability.
"We talked about it. It's a new book. It's not even just a new chapter, it's a new book, and the way we think about it, it's around the fourth or fifth chapter when you either want to get rid of the book or keep reading," Schramm said. "It's really exciting for everyone. We really, truly believe we can make the A-10 tournament and I think that at the beginning of the year that probably wasn't in the back of any of their minds."