There has been a divisional change, a serious knee injury, a couple of tough seasons.
Through it all Dana Jarboe has stuck with Northern Kentucky University and its softball program, and she’s glad she did.
The Norse wrap up their season this weekend with a home series against Florida Gulf Coast. This is the second year NKU has been an NCAA Division I school, and the team has a 5-42 record, 1-22 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“It’s been a very frustrating season for sure,” said Jarboe, a senior at NKU and a 2010 graduate of Franklin County High School. “We’ve had a much tougher schedule this year. We’ve played Mississippi State, U of L twice. The competition is tougher, and we’ve got some young pitchers. We lost our ace last year (to graduation). Our ace last year was phenomenal.
“Last year was our first season at DI. We were 11-41, but last year we had 10 to 12 games that were decided by one run. Every game was a hard-fought battle, and this year that’s not the case.”
Jarboe has been a primary starter throughout her career at Northern.
She’s started nearly every game this season and started over half the games the other three years, all in the outfield.
This year she’s hitting .243, second on the team, with one home run, and she was named the Geico Athlete of the Week at NKU April 7.
As part of its move from NCAA Div. II to Div. I, Northern can’t participate in post-season play for four years.
“When I signed I had no idea,” Jarboe said about the move. “The rumors didn’t start until the end of my freshman year. I liked being DII, I liked who we played, and I knew it was going to be a tough transition.
“Every senior wants to play in a post-season game, but this year my last game has been decided since the beginning of the season.”
The last time NKU was in the post-season was 2012, when the Norse won their regional and hosted the NCAA Division II Midwest Super Regional. Northern lost the super regional series to Saint Joseph’s College, finishing the season at 38-21.
Jarboe suffered a knee injury a week before the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament that year, tearing an ACL during a game against Bellarmine, and missed the entire post-season.
If that sounds like a lot of adversity, it’s not what Jarboe is taking away from her time at NKU.
“I do not regret at all my decision to go to Northern,” she said. “I absolutely love it. It’s been perfect for me.”
Jarboe said it was sports first in high school, but that’s changed in college.
“Softball was my life,” she said about her time at FCHS, “and I’d leave class to go hit balls. When I got here coach really, really emphasized the importance of academics, and we’re required to do so many hours at the study table.”
Jarboe will graduate a week from Sunday with a bachelor of social work degree with an emphasis in hospice care.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to spend the last precious moments of someone’s life with them,” she said, “to help them with the transition, and their families. It’s rewarding, and you hear amazing stories.”
Jarboe was recently named the most outstanding Bachelor of Social Work Student and was one of two student-athletes to receive the career service award at NKU’s athletic banquet.
The career service award is based upon academic excellence, service contribution, character and leadership.
Jarboe has been active in bringing “You Can Play” to NKU. The “You Can Play” Project is an organization that promotes inclusiveness of athletes regardless of their sexual orientation.
She’s been on the Dean’s List every semester and has a grade-point average over 3.8, and she’s been a member of NKU’s choir for four years.
Jarboe plans to start work on a master’s degree in January.
In August she’s marrying Jeremy Gardner, a fellow FCHS graduate who’s been a football player and wrestler at the University of the Cumberlands the past four years. Gardner and Jarboe are graduating the same day.
There are a lot of changes, and the first is this weekend with the end of her softball career.
“There are seven of us graduating,” Jarboe said. “We’re a really, really close group, and we’ve all been avoiding talking about it. We played a doubleheader yesterday (Wednesday) and beat Morehead. It was like ‘OK, that’s our last weekday game. We’re not going to talk about it.’
“It’s definitely bittersweet. I have some great times in my life — marrying Jeremy, graduation — and these are some of the most exciting times of my life.
“But I’m so sad the sport I’ve given my life and body to is ending.”