A Dream Come True Nova Siegel Continues Softball Career in Austria

It was a dream come true when Nova Siegel ’19 (Fairfield, CA) learned that she will be continuing her softball career in Vienna, Austria, as a member of the Wanderers in the Austrian Softball League. “It was surreal,” Siegel said of reading the text message from Gabby Gonzalez, her friend and former assistant coach at Sierra College. “It still hasn’t hit me yet that I am going to Austria to get paid to play the game I love. It literally is a dream come true.”

"I knew that this wasn't something that most players could do."

From a young age, Siegel was destined for that moment due to her early commitment and unparalleled success in the sport of softball. She began her career at four years old as the youngest girl on the team and has thrived in the game ever since. “It is something that consumed my life,” Siegel stated. She realized that she had what it takes to play collegiately early on. “It dawned on me when I was 11 and was able to play every position,” said Siegel. “I knew that this wasn’t something that most players could do.”

Once she displayed her versatility on the field, people took notice and provided her the opportunity to “play up” with the older kids. Siegel vividly remembers a key interaction she had with an umpire on her 13th birthday when playing on an 18-and-under team. The umpire asked how old she was, and Siegel replied that she was turning 13 that day; his face displayed simple amazement and admiration. For Siegel, it inspired confidence. “The fact that I was able to hang with them at that age showed me that I was better than I thought I was.”

But Siegel is no stranger to adversity, as she has had to claw her way back on more than one occasion to the game that she loves. After receiving looks from schools such as St. Mary’s College at a young age, Siegel suffered a devastating injury to her shoulder and wrist in high school. The injury derailed her season and required her to take substantial time away from the field, which resulted in a loss of interest from many schools on her list.

Nonetheless, Siegel showed resiliency by bouncing back for a strong senior year. She continued to shine on the travel-ball circuit, but it proved to be too late because most schools had already filled their rosters by that time. As a result, Siegel took the junior college route. “That diminished my confidence a little. This wasn’t the way I thought things would go for me,” said Siegel. But she took the opportunity and saw it as a fresh start.

Instead of staying in the area to play at one of the local junior colleges, where she feels she could have easily been a top player, she decided to take her talents to a more competitive environment at Sierra College, with something to prove. She parlayed that experience into an offer to play at her new home for the past two years, the University of Redlands.

"I am proud to say that I am a Bulldog for life."

Interestingly enough, the decision to attend Redlands was not clear from the beginning, as Siegel had planned to commit to an NCAA Division II school in Florida. She changed her mind just a week before her signing to officially attend the U of R. “I was sold on the Division III love of the game and strong education,” stated Siegel. “Redlands isn't just a college; it is a family and I am proud to say that I am a Bulldog for life."

Just like everywhere else, Siegel shined in the Maroon and Gray and immediately made an impact as a solid and consistent catcher. In her two years with the Bulldogs, she threw out 16 runners with pin-point accuracy and earned a fielding percentage of .973 with 185 total putouts. Siegel registered a career batting average of .356 with 69 hits, including 13 doubles and one grand slam. She also provided 25 RBI and stole eight bases.

"My path has made me who I am and I wouldn't change anything."

However, her career was nearly cut short when she sustained another serious injury late in her junior season. She was sidelined for nine months after shattering her fifth metacarpal, which is the bone that helps form the connection to the forearm. “It was a scary thing heading into my senior year with my dream of playing at the next level in jeopardy,” Siegel said. After the heart-breaking injury, the doctors notified Siegel that she may never play softball again.

Nonetheless, Siegel would not let anything stop her from returning to the field and continuing to follow her dreams. To everyone’s surprise but her own, Siegel worked herself back into playing shape. “I laminated the doctor’s note from when I was cleared to play in December of 2018 and keep it in my room for motivation.”

Siegel took advantage of her final season with the Bulldogs as an excellent leader, softball player, and student. On February 24, her experience at Sierra College came full circle when Gabby sent her the message that she will be playing overseas. “I feel like everything that has happened to me has happened for a reason, and I strongly believe that. My path has made me who I am and I wouldn’t change anything.”

"I am now more prepared for this experience than I ever could have imagined."

Now she is on her way to becoming what she always wanted to be since the age of four, an international softball player. Though her road was not necessarily direct or exactly how she had planned it to be, her experiences have strengthened her mental toughness to successfully navigate life's challenges. “There is obviously some doubt, but I think that just comes with being a softball/baseball player. You know that 7 out of 10 times you’re going to fail and that is something that we have to accept and live with.”

Although flying more than 13 hours to another country may seem scary to some, Siegel plans to take this opportunity head on. “I’m not afraid. I see it as a fresh start and I am very excited. Even if things aren’t perfect at first, I know that I will be able to learn and grow because I know that I am very comfortable with who I am.”

Siegel’s confidence is contagious but she understands that there is more to the puzzle than just herself. “The support that I received from my professors, coaches, friends, teammates, and family reassured me that I am now more prepared for this experience than I ever could have imagined.”

In addition to competing, Siegel will have the opportunity to coach. “I am excited about not just playing the game, but giving back to other girls. Going overseas to help them learn while sharing my passion and love for the game is going to make me happier than anything else.”

Siegel plans to travel to Austria on Wednesday, June 12, and return home on Tuesday, September 17.

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