Softball media day: Hawkeyes prepare for competitive 2012 season

BY BEN ROSS | FEBRUARY 08, 2012 7:20 AM

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The Iowa softball team has changed prior to the beginning of the 2012 season, most notably with the way practice is run and how the players work out.

This is the second year that head coach Marla Looper has led the program, and it appears the Hawkeyes are starting to instill some of the qualities she likes. The way the team will compete this season is new, she said; she thinks her athletes have become more competitive in all aspects of their training, and that should translate to how they compete in games.

"Last year, it was hard to compete with other teams, because we didn't know how to compete with each other," the head coach said. "If you can compete with your friends and buddies, it's easier to compete with someone you don't know."

Looper said she was able to extract that level of competitiveness from her players by intensifying their practices and workout regimens.

"Everything is a competition," she said. "We've made practice game-speed. Make it quicker, faster so the game doesn't speed up in our heads. We're able to — in the middle of the game — slow it down, stop it, and really control it the way we want."

The players are seeing a difference in Looper's new system, too. Senior Liz Watkins said the added intensity and competitive drive of practices is helping her mentally, especially her toughness.

"We work really hard," Watkins said. "Physically to get stronger and to be able to hit those long home-run balls. I think I'm working more mentally, to be mentally tough in the box. By doing that, everything will follow."

Keim switches spots

The Hawkeyes will put one of their most seasoned players at a new position for the 2012 season:

Senior Katie Keim is moving to first base. Last season, she earned third-team All-Big Ten honors at second, where she started 48 of 51 games.

She didn't look uncomfortable at her new location during a scrimmage after the team's media day on Tuesday; she recorded the first out of the intra-squad game.

Keim said she's not upset about changing positions. She lauded the switch, citing it as a chance to further hone her softball skills.

"[Playing first base is] going well, and I'm excited to take on this new challenge," Keim said. "Wherever they need me, I can play it. I'll try my best for any new position they put me in. Every day, we have an opportunity to get better."

Iowa softball gets new faces

The Hawkeyes have three freshmen on this year's roster, and an additional five transfer players.

Junior Bradi Wall came to Iowa City by way of Iowa Western Community College, and junior Katie Holmes transferred from Nicholls State in Louisiana.

The Hawkeyes will also reunite sophomore triplets Brittanee, Steviee, and Malloree Grove; Brittanee and Malloree Grove went to Creighton last year, and Steviee Grove spent her freshman campaign at Indiana State.

The Grove triplets and Wall walked on to the team at the beginning of the season.

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