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Softball players learning to trust one another

BY IAN MARTIN | APRIL 05, 2010 7:30 AM

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After a four-error performance during a 7-3 loss at Iowa State last week, the Iowa softball team needed to improve its defense.

While a few practice drills and fundamental lessons could help any team, an improvement in intangibles seems to have led the Hawkeyes to a pair of commanding victories against Indiana over the weekend at Pearl Field.

Iowa gave up only two runs in its two home games.

“For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working so hard on trust,” said freshman pitcher Chelsea Lyon, who recorded her first Big Ten start in the 5-1 win against the Hoosiers on April 3. “And it’s obvious that we’re trusting each other now.”

Players have worked on “trust reps” during recent practices, and the freshman-dominated team has participated in a variety of team-building exercises as well.

Starting off the season 12-12-1, it seemed something beyond youth was bugging Iowa.

“Honestly, there were probably times earlier in the season where we weren’t confident with the decisions of our people on the field,” Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins said.

But now, the Hawkeyes are 18-13-1 and 4-0 in conference play. Two wins into a six-game home stand against some of the weaker Big Ten teams, Iowa sits atop the conference alongside Michigan and Illinois — both ranked squads the Hawkeyes will face in May.

The trust the team has shown lately may be the coals that keep the winning fire burning. Now that the Hawkeyes’ belief in one another has been established, though, the Iowa’s head woman said it will continue to be a point of emphasis throughout the season.

“If you go into our locker room right now, it’s one of our four words on the board,” said Blevins, and she believes that trust is more important than anything while her team is on defense.

The two weekend contests were marked by a number of defensive achievements, which boosted team trust.

During Iowa’s April 3 victory, third baseman Katie Keim snagged a one-hopper with a runner on third. Aware that the runner had wandered too far toward home, Keim tagged the Hoosier quickly and immediately threw to first base for a double play.

While the sophomore smiled at her feat, teammates seemed excited but unsurprised — almost as though they knew she would make the play.

Earlier in the year, the Hawkeyes might have been more relieved to see such prowess.

In its two wins this weekend, the Iowa softball team jelled to the point that it was almost as though the Hawkeyes had played together for more than just half a season.

“Knowing that somebody’s going to cover up that base or knowing that [first baseman] Katie Brown is going to make that double play,” sophomore Liz Watkins said. “That’s changed us a lot.”


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