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Solon alum Sydney Lawson batting in the Big Ten

Wisconsin Badger sophomore Sydney Lawson, from Solon, steps into a swing at the University of Iowa in the final inning of the first softball game on Saturday, April 7. The Badgers fell to the University of Iowa Hawkeyes during all three games, 3-0, 4-3 and 5-3, held in Coralville on April 7-8. Lawson made her first Big Ten start. (photo by Jeff Hess)

CORALVILLE– Former Solon Lady Spartan Sydney Lawson, daughter of Gene and Christine Lawson from Solon, is swinging the pine in the Big Ten this season.
The Wisconsin Badgers visited the University of Iowa Softball field in Coralville for three games in two days– a doubleheader held on Saturday, April 7, and the final game Sunday, April 8.
Although the Badgers did not fair well against the Hawkeyes, falling 3-0, 4-3 and 5-3 in the three games, attendees got an opportunity to see the Solon High School graduate play in her Big Ten debut on Sunday and get her first Big Ten hit.
Lawson redshirted at Wisconsin the 2017 season, sidelined with an injury. This season, according to the Badgers’ website, she has played in 11 games, starting two, scored seven times this season, including twice at Wright State on March 3, and has three stolen bases on four attempts.
Wisconsin Badger Coach Yvette Healy is quoted on the website as saying, “Sydney Lawson brings speed, competitiveness and grit to the Badgers. She is one of the fastest, toughest outfielders from the state of Iowa. Sydney is a run-scorer. She caught our eye, competing for Merle Miller’s Southeast Iowa All-Stars. She finds a way to get on base, cause havoc on the base paths and put runs on the board for her team. It’s always exciting when you can find great speed kids that are physical around the bases. Sydney will be (a) force in our offense.”
She played four years for former Head Softball Coach Jim White at Solon High School. She was named to the All-Conference First Team her sophomore, junior and senior seasons; she was a member of the All-State and All-District First Teams as a junior and senior, as well as making the All-State Third Team as a sophomore; she was selected to the 2015 and 2016 State All-Tournament Teams; she played in the Iowa Senior All-star Tournament, and also lettered three years in track, two years in basketball and one year in soccer while attending Solon High School.
“Thanks for coming out to the games on Saturday! Although we lost the series, I did get my first Big Ten start and first (Big Ten) career hits, so those were some pretty cool milestones despite the upsetting overall turnout,” Badger sophomore and Solon graduate Lawson commented prior to answering a few questions for the Economist.
You red shirted last season, leaving four years of eligibility to play with the Badgers, it was the first time you have really had an injury impacting your opportunity to play. How did this affect you?
“It was extremely tough being injured and redshirting my freshman year. I tore my labrum the week before preseason tournaments started, so I wasn’t able to even play in a single game. I think the hardest part was feeling separate from my teammates who were and are my best friends here. It really challenged me to create a new identity for myself, because I had to find another way to channel my passion for softball because I couldn’t play it anymore. I became really invested in my schoolwork and environmental studies which is now my major. While the time away from my teammates and the game was really tough, on the bright side, I had a lot more time on my hands and was able to focus and get really good grades.”
What was the culture change you experienced from the program here at Solon to jumping in with both feet at Wisconsin? What was the biggest adjustment with the change in the environment?
“I would say the toughest part about jumping into college athletics is everyone is as good or better than you. Pitchers don’t throw fatties anymore and shortstops have really good arms. You kind of have to start this process of proving yourself all over again, which I found a little daunting in my first few months. You go from being the best on your team to a wide-eyed freshman and that’s a tough transition in itself without the game humbling you in other ways. In terms of culture, I think I was extremely fortunate to come from a phenomenal one where we sacrificed for the greater good and everyone worked hard day in and day out to get better, and I’m extremely thankful I have that here at Wisconsin, too. I came from a place of hard work and it set me up well for my time here in Madison.”
Coming back to the local area playing at the University against the Hawkeyes, was it a homecoming of sorts, were you allowed some opportunity to connect with local friends, or was it all business with three games in two days?
“It was great to come back to Iowa City, though a little nostalgic in a sense, as well. I found myself wanting to tell little stories of my past from each building or place we passed to my teammates. Unfortunately, with the weather messing up the regularly scheduled weekend, we weren’t allowed any scheduled time with our families, so I was a little bummed I didn’t get to go home and see my dogs… or a lot bummed. Having grown up basically in Iowa City though, I think it gave me a more competitive edge on Sunday when I got the start. I just had this mentality like I wasn’t going to be shown up in my ‘hometown,’ so it definitely fueled my fire a little bit being back home.”
Transitioning to the Badgers’ system, were there any difficulties or was it business as usual in regards to the programs? What are your favorite parts of the Badger program?
“I would say a big challenge I faced transitioning from Solon’s style of practices to Badger practices was the speed and intensity. In high school and being from Iowa, we play in the summer so there’s no regulations on how long or short practice can be, so some days we would be out there for five hours until we got everything done we needed to. There was never a huge rush. In college, however, there are compliance rules and NCAA regulations on the hours allowed for practice, lifts and individuals each week, so things are more heavily structured and sometimes frantic to fit everything in the time slots allowed. We’re never standing around and always jogging/running between stations or drills. It’s a lot more intense than I was used to, for sure.”
Do you have any advice for High School athletes making a similar athletic transition? Any advice you wish someone gave you prior to taking that next step in your scholastic and athletic career?
My advice for anyone fortunate enough to play collegiate athletics, of any level, is to embrace the process and the grind. It’s going to be tough. You’re going to be uncomfortable at times, or a lot of times, and you’re most likely going to struggle one way or another, but remember you’re there for a reason. Your coaches believe in you and your teammates got your back and if you work hard, the game will reward you. Also get good grades. It’s a lot easier to start with a high GPA and go from there then to try and revive it as an upperclassman after you tanked it freshman year, so I’ve been told. And of course, don’t forget to have fun and explore passions outside of athletics. You’ll meet a lot of cool people and learn some really interesting things along the way.”