Can you talk about the second year familiarity with this team?
"My inner coaching circle has said year two is always harder for the head coach, and I have accepted that challenge. I try to head that off and take each day as it presents itself. The girls have been as eager. Last year it was a newness, but this year it's how much more can we learn. But there are still a lot of new things going on in the program."
Can you build off of the April that you had last season?
"I hope we build on what they learned last year. Nothing trumps experience. Even athleticism sometimes doesn't trump the experience card. The expectations and the guts we built last year, I would hope that remains with them. It's a stepping stone; they are starting at a higher level now."
What are some of the strong points of the lineup?
"We are fast; last year we were 22nd in the country in stolen bases. I think the year before I got here they had around 40 stolen bases. My first year we had 98 with the same personnel. This year we did not lose speed and added some. We are going to create some chaos on the base path. Returning some veteran players who have been under a staff for a year, it's promising."
What did you first want to accomplish with your pitching staff, and how have they progressed?
"I wanted them to know how credible they were and how good they were. I wanted to teach them that we were going to utilize a staff. It's my philosophy that we are going to more of a baseball mentality where we have a starter, a closer, and maybe a middle relief. We want to use a staff mentality. Each one of them sets the other up for success. I also wanted to create a culture of confidence. In the bullpen, I wanted them to be experimental and not be afraid to try something new."
Do you like the conference dropping down to 24 games?
"When you look at it from an NCAA perspective, those non-conference games help in the winning percentage, but they can hurt in the RPI. You have to be really careful in scheduling. Not only do we want to be above .500, but we also want the proper RPI. Losing the SEC opponents, you have to be smart in scheduling those non-SEC opponents. We picked up Louisiana-Lafayette for a home and away, and they are always in the NCAA tournament. I'm going to miss playing everybody in the league; I think that's what a league is about. However, I know it can't be that way."
Would you say that you all have the mindset or are in the process of getting the mindset that you all are one of the top teams to beat in the SEC?
"The whole objective this year has been higher expectations of yourself, each other, your support staff, and everyone around you so that we can be a contender. They know that is the coaching staff's goal. You have to do everything in a day to be a winner, without looking at the scoreboard. Then you can see if you won the game."
How has Jessica Cooley progressed and how far has she come since you got here?
"Cooley is never satisfied, so she has continued to improve. One area that she's really grown is her leadership. She is steering our boat in the right direction and keeping everybody's oars rowing. Our strength coach is another reason why Cooley and all of our players have done well. Cooley's intangibles are really what she's going to bring to the table this year."
You must be excited about Logan Foulks, what does she bring to the plate?
"Number one I would say her mentality. You can kind of see if they are a hitter by the way they approach hitting and batting practice. She has experience in the ACC, and she has had a lot of SEC experience form playing out of conference. One of the things I like about Logan is her walk to strikeout ratio. They are about even (44-40). For me, you can tell a lot about a hitter if the walks and strike outs are about even. It means they are getting good pitches to hit."
What kind of hitting team do you anticipate?
"Hopefully we will be very scrappy. We will bring a lot of speed and really pressure our opponents with our speed. We will execute when we need to play a little small ball. Were also going to steal, run first to third, and score from second."
Talk about the excitement with the season three weeks away.
"The girls are extremely excited. Because of the weather, we are finally getting outside tomorrow. But the girls are up every morning at 6:30 working out with our strength coach who is incredible. The progressions that have been made are unbelievable. It is going to help us late in the season."
Last April was a great month for the team, how can you translate that into this entire season?
"Well we always talk about how late season are our seasons. Late innings are our innings. I think the girls bought into that. Again, the strength and condition help with that. The fact the that girls bought into that and it worked mean that they will buy into it from now on. We don't play a team; we play the game."