Cooley Prepares for Senior Season

Mississippi State's softball team is putting in work for the 2013 season. The squad took to the road on their annual Tour de Miss, scrimmaging programs throughout the state. After last year's ending in the Eugene, Oregon regional, senior OF Jessica Cooley looks to use that in preparations for this year.

"It's definitely a motivator the way we ended last season," said Cooley. "We made it to the NCAA Tournament, but that's just not where we want to end up. We want to go further, so we really set higher expectations."

Individually, Cooley has already contributed much to her team. In 2012 she posted a .310 batting average, with 15 home runs and 41 RBI. Additionally, she is on pace to break the Mississippi State single season home run record. However, Cooley does not focus on records; she looks to shine as a consistent player and as a leader.

"I want to perform and pull through for my team in whatever circumstances," she said. "I want to be a good teammate, and be somebody that they can rely on."

A prep standout, Cooley gained interest from a variety of schools, but Mississippi State felt like the right place for her to be.

"My top three teams were Mississippi State, Auburn and Jacksonville State," Cooley said. "I came on my visit and my sister actually went here so I knew a lot of the girls, and I knew the coaches. I just loved the campus; I love the atmosphere and the people here, it just felt like home."

Earlier in the fall the Lady Bulldogs took on a daunting task when they faced the National Pro Fastpitch team in Batesville, MS. Although they suffered a defeat, Cooley and her teammates feel that the matchup will prove to be extremely helpful in the 2013 season.

"I think it put us in tough situations and that's what we wanted to do in the fall," she said. "We wanted to learn from that and take it with us into our season. We played against the best of the best and it was really a great experience playing against people you grew up watching."

Entering her junior year, Cooley experienced a coaching change. Premier pitching coach Vann Stuedeman was named head coach, and she brought with her a new atmosphere to Starkville.

"She's very energetic and very hands on; I love it," said Cooley. "She has been amazing; I couldn't ask for a better coaching staff. They want you to do well not just in softball, but in life so they've really painted a bigger picture than softball for us."

However, with a new staff, comes a different style of coaching.

"It's hard definitely; this past year and a half have been some of the hardest things I've ever gone through," said Cooley. "At the same time, it's just that much more rewarding."

Jessica has started to think about life after softball, but hopes that she can still have an impact on the game.

"I don't like to think about it, but being a senior you can see that it's coming to an end. I'm looking into sports marketing; Vann and the coaches have opened my eyes to the whole business side of sports," said Cooley. "I really want to get into that so I can stay involved in sports and maybe even softball, helping promote it."

Cooley and her team have been bearing down in the fall in order to get themselves ready to reach the high expectations.

"Fall is all about going through the hard stuff conditioning, going through the workouts, and the long practices. It's getting your team all on one page, getting your team together, and getting that chemistry going," she said.

Adding to that chemistry are two transfers from Georgia. After sitting out one year, the newcomers look to have an impact.

"Alison Owen and Julia Echols, who came from Georgia, finally get an opportunity to play," said Cooley. "I think they're really going to break out this year."

While fall is hard work for these student athletes, Cooley knows it will be well worth it when spring rolls around.

"In the spring time you get that energy with the season, and you just want to play and put everything out on the line."

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