Softball putting last season in rearview mirror


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By all accounts, last year was a disaster for the Iowa softball team.

Early injuries forced lineup changes, which never gelled, and the Hawks finished with a record of 16-30, eighth in the Big Ten.

This season, the team, with seven starters returning, wants to strike back.

“We’re ready to face someone in another uniform,” head coach Marla Looper said. “The kids have been working hard, they’ve got a lot of passion, they’ve got a lot of energy — they’re still hungry, and we’re ready to step on the field against someone else.”

Someone else, at least this weekend, will be five different schools in the Ramada UNI-Dome Classic.

Drake, Southern Utah, North Dakota State, Green Bay, and Northern Iowa await the Hawkeyes in Cedar Falls.

It’s a chance for the Hawkeyes to pick up some early season wins and get themselves out of the funk from last season.

“We need to stay completely focused throughout the season, I know personally in the past I have let school and other issues get in my head sometimes during practice and stuff,” sophomore captain Kaitlyn Mullarkey said. “Ever since we’ve gotten back from break, I’ve had laser focus.

“I just plan to keep that focus and energy throughout the season.”

Focus was a major theme when coaches and players talked about the previous season. Over the off-season, Looper got creative when trying to figure out how to crack the focus problem.

“Coming back in the preseason camp we had, they were talking about how do we break the fishbowl, how do we get out of what’s been comfortable,” Looper said. “We brought in a mental coach to try to work with us that week and brought other coaches in to give some motivational pieces.”

While the softball Hawks get their heads on straight, they will also receive a booster shoot of seven new freshmen, promising redshirt sophomore Sammi Gyerman returned from season-ending injury, transfer Jillian Navarrete, and a new assistant coach Adam Arbour, who is in charge of the Hawkeyes’ bats.

It’s a mix that could, if nurtured correctly, bloom quickly — something the Hawkeyes need if they’re going to improve upon last season.

With the number of underclassmen on the team (13), those who have been around for a while are tasked with bringing everyone into the fold.

“You could say that I’ll be called on to take a role, but I also believe everyone can be a leader in her own way,” Gyerman said. “Vocal leaders, or leaders that show on the field, so I definitely want to implement my leadership along with everyone else.”

Iowa shouldn’t be tested too much this weekend, but it’s a chance to get an early idea of what the team is going to look like.

More importantly, it’s a chance to finally get a chance to play competitively and not travel nearly as far as it will for the other five tournaments the Hawkeyes will play in before Big Ten play starts in mid-March.

“We’re indoors, so it’s a surface we’re used to playing on, and two, it’s close, and we’re not missing a class day,” Looper said. “We’re going to get some quality opponents over the weekend and eliminate a lot of the extra travel that we’ll eventually take in the next few weeks.

“We might as well start near home.”

Follow @JordyHansen on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa softball team.

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