In Rochester, Minnesota, the average high temperature on March 3rd and 4th is a brisk 33 degrees, and we won’t even mention the amount of snow that’s likely to be on the ground. So that’s the perfect date and place for a softball tournament, right?
Actually, the answer is yes, as long as the field has a roof over it. That’s why softball teams from nine ACM colleges will take the field at the Rochester Regional Stadium and Bubble on March 3-4 in the first ACM Softball Dome Tournament.
The best timing for an ACM tournament turned out to be very early in the softball season. The weather’s still too cold to play outside in the Midwest, but coaches want to get some games in because the regular season ends by early May. Luther College annually hosts a pair of indoor tournaments in Rochester in late February and early March and volunteered to host the ACM event.
“Dome softball is not ideal, but nobody likes to play four doubleheaders in a week in April, either,” said Renae Hartl, Director of Athletics and Head Softball Coach at Luther. “I think it’s best for our students to play in the dome, because it spreads things out in the schedule, and it spreads out any potential for missing classes, as well.”
“One of the things we tried to do with this ACM tournament was to have the student-athletes not miss school,” she said, so a weekend was selected. “Some teams will be getting home pretty late on Sunday night, but I think everybody was willing to do that to not miss classes on Friday.”
The ACM athletic directors have sponsored a series of volleyball and soccer competitions in recent years. This fall, Lawrence University will host the fifth ACM Volleyball Tournament on September 7-9 in Appleton, WI.
ACM member colleges are split among four different athletic conferences for most sports, but the majority compete in the Midwest Conference. One of the benefits of ACM athletic competitions is the potential to play against teams from other conferences, so the softball tournament schedule was set up to ensure that there won’t be any intra-conference match-ups.
“For the six Midwest Conference teams to be excited about the softball tournament, they didn’t want to have to play each other,” Hartl said. Teams from five non-ACM colleges were added to round out the field and maximize use of the venue. The dome’s two fields will have games scheduled back-to-back for 12 hours on each of the two days.
Another feature of ACM tournaments has been to include activities that bring the student-athletes and their coaches together off the field or court to highlight collaboration among ACM colleges.
“We’re going to have an ACM tent in the dome and encourage the ACM teams to go there,” said Hartl. “We want to provide a cool place for them to hang out together and meet people from other teams.” An ACM All-Tournament Team will also be named.
“Luther has played very few of these teams before,” she added, “so I’m excited to see some new faces and play some different schools.”