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Softball going back to basics

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | FEBRUARY 09, 2011 7:10 AM

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Iowa softball is focusing on fundamentals and team unity this season.

Head coach Marla Looper is in her first season with Iowa, and she hasn’t wasted any time in building the program. The Hawkeyes want to preserve their reputation of strong pitching and effective defense, but Looper hopes to boost offense and increase strength and conditioning in practice.

“We really are trying to become a very disciplined team with a lot of integrity and a lot of loyalty to our program,” senior captain Chelsey Carmody said.

Focusing on the fundamentals is the first step for the Hawkeyes to reach their goal for the season: the Big Ten championship. Last year, Iowa finished fifth in the conference, but this season, the team is looking for a renewed focus on the basics to bring them a breakout year.

“The game is about taking care of what we can take care of,” Looper said. “If our pitching can keep the ball in the park, our defense fields those balls, and our offense scores those runs — it seems pretty simple — but if we can do that, our chances for the Big Ten are strong.”

The Hawkeyes will begin their season on Friday at the Black and Red Showcase in Athens, Ga. Junior catcher Liz Watkins believes that the team’s unity shows the Hawkeyes are ready for the success to start.

After graduating five seniors in 2010, five rookies have come in. But, said senior captain Katie Keim, “freshmen are no longer called freshmen anymore.”

With a team of only 16 players, the Hawkeyes need to make every player count, which means the freshmen have to step up.

“Freshmen tend to play nervous and scared,” first-year pitcher Kayla Massey said. “So they tell us that we’re not freshmen anymore. We need to think for ourselves and be like everybody else.”

The team’s camaraderie is strong this year, Watkins said. The reinstated focus on the fundamentals has made even the veterans work harder and improve more. By emphasizing the small aspects of softball and making an effort to improve every day, the Hawkeyes are coming together.

“Whether it’s the pitching, whether it’s offense, defense, whether it’s me yelling behind the plate, Chelsey tagging someone out,” Watkins said. “… Everybody feeds off each other, and that’s what a team is.”


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