Tough start to Big Ten play

In this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's tough opening weekend in Big Ten play at Penn State. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

We lost two heartbreakers on the road at Penn State this weekend to open Big Ten play. I was so proud of how hard the team battled and bought in to our game plan. We managed to get about 27 runners on base in two games against two of the best pitchers in the Big Ten.

Penn State is known for its pitchers. When you play on the road against two pitchers with ERAs under 2.00, you know you're in for a battle. I was so proud of our team's tenacity and grit. We scored five runs on Saturday and two on Sunday, including the go-ahead run in the 8th inning. We didn't even have our leading RBI producer on Sunday, after Mary Massei suffered a facial fracture after an outfield collision on Saturday.

Right now, we're just trying to teach the Badgers how to win. We're young at a lot of critical spots, and we're going through the typical growing pains. When you have young athletes in key positions, there's always a learning curve. We had a few fly balls misplayed on Saturday that killed us and defensive mistakes on Sunday that cost us runs. The exciting part is that we had the lead several times in both games, and we had opportunities to win late in both games. We gave Penn State all they could handle at their place. We just didn't finish.

These are great teachable moments for young teams. We used this opportunity to meet with our team and challenge our athletes to take ownership and accountability, to know their role and do their job. We explained that it's not okay to not to be good at your job; now, in relationships and in life.

We've identified some key areas for improvement in many of our kids. It will be interesting to see who emerges ready for the challenge and who backs down. We want to see who will ask questions, make changes and put the work in, and who isn't immersed in improvement. Adversity has an amazing way of revealing character. Athletes either passionately care about getting better or they pout, complain and check out.

We're still 15-11 right now. I'm very proud of this group of young women. There's a big character check ahead for our squad. I'm curious to see how this group responds to a few heartbreakers. When deficiencies are exposed, is our group motivated and energized to overcome obstacles and get better together, or not?

We open our home season this week with UIC on Wednesday and a doubleheader vs. Loyola on Thursday. Let's see if we have the tenacity to stay the course, stay confident and bounce back.
ON WISCONSIN