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Join Stephanie Peace as she shares how she used falling short of the post season last year as motivation for achieving that goal this season
Join Stephanie Peace as she shares how she used falling short of the post season last year as motivation for achieving that goal this season
Last May our team came so close to making the regional tournament and moving on to the post season. Coming up short left a bitter taste in my mouth and I used that as a little extra motivation through the long summer break. When I left Madison at the end of the spring I was disappointed, but not discouraged. The 2012 season was such an exciting experience and every bit of it made us better. With such a large returning class and so many young faces, it is exciting to be a part of Wisconsin softball.
When I returned home to Texas at the beginning of the summer I flew directly into College Station. I wanted to watch a couple of my best friends play in the Texas A&M regional tournament. I wanted to know what the atmosphere was like during a regional tournament and I wanted to see great softball being played. With each game I watched in the post season, I became more excited and more motivated. I want to be at a regional tournament next May. I know that our team is capable of competing in the post season with the top sixty four teams in the nation.
After the regional tournament my parents and I drove home to San Antonio, and I went to work. I was happy to be home with my family and old friends, but I ran, lifted and hit multiple times a week. I worked out alone mostly, but sometimes I would drag old teammates to my workouts with me. I focused on footwork and speed nearly every time I practiced this summer. I ran hill sprints, ladders, base running and changing direction drills.
I am fortunate to have played, and now coach, for a summer ball organization that owns an indoor softball facility. They allow me to come and practice on their field and hit in their cages. Although the facility was inside, it was no shelter from the Texas heat. The building has no air conditioning and no fans. I would usually work out in the evenings and night to avoid the hottest part of the day. I was definitely a cage rat, though. When I went to the facility I was there for hours. I would turn on some country music and work on every part of my game. I took my time with my workouts and skills; I didn't want to waste my effort.
I spent most of my weekends coaching an amazing group of high school aged girls. They were so much fun to be around. All of these young ladies spent the summer working and preparing to play at the college level. We travelled all over the state of Texas and to Oklahoma and Mississippi. They competed with some of the best teams in the nation and in front of dozens of college coaches.
I mostly worked with the outfield players, but I also worked with the hitters. I used drills we use here at Wisconsin, and they loved the challenging workouts. With each drill we ran in practice, I reiterated to the girls and myself the basic fundamentals of the game. I reminded myself that it wasn't long ago that I was in my players' shoes wanting to be a division I athlete. Coaching helped me pick up on some of the finer points of the game. Coaching was a great learning opportunity and I enjoyed working with such dedicated young athletes.
In my first two years as a Badger, the program has grown and improved. It has been an exciting adventure with a great group of girls and coaches. I cannot overlook the opportunities I have been blessed with and the people I have been able to share it with. Coach Healy said today that, "the harder you have to work for a goal, the more meaningful an achievement becomes." I agree. The journey to a post season tournament means more with each year it eludes us. I used internal and an external motivation, this summer, to drive me to be a better athlete. I want our team to be successful and I know that I can play a part in that. I know that I have a wonderful opportunity here at the University of Wisconsin. Not to give full effort wastes the talents and opportunities I have been given.
By Meghan McIntosh
Over the course of two weeks, UW Athletics will look back on the Badgers' biggest accomplishments during the 2011-12 season.
Timely hitting, including a home run by Karla Powell, led the Wisconsin softball team to its first-ever win over Nebraska on May 11. The win snapped the Huskers' 16-game home win streak and earned the Badgers their 34th victory of the season, tying the UW school record set in 2000.
Wisconsin's 19 losses in 2012 were the fewest in school history and its .641 winning percentage was a program best.
The Badgers also set a new mark in the record books with their 12th Big Ten win of the season against Purdue on April 28, earning the most league wins in program history. Win No. 13 came against Nebraska, as the Badgers finished the year with a 13-10 record in league play.
The Badgers' success earned them a school-record-tying four student-athletes on All-Big Ten teams, including a pair of first team selections. Second baseman Whitney Massey earned a place on the NFCA All-Great Lake Region first team after finishing the season with a school record 22 doubles and a team-best .358 batting average.
In today's blog, head coach Yvette Healy shares her speech from the Goodman Softball Training Center ground breaking on June 21, 2012.
They say true happiness in life comes from being a part of something bigger than yourself, from dedicating yourself to a greater cause and building a legacy that will extend beyond your years. Thank you to everyone in the Wisconsin softball family gathered here today to build not only a new indoor softball facility, but ultimately to build the Badger softball program into a national powerhouse.
What an honor it is to be here today with Randy Schneider and Tracie Adix of our coaching staff, and so many of our Wisconsin student-athletes to celebrate this groundbreaking
We want to extend a special thank you to EG Schramka and the Goodman Foundation for their lead gift and ongoing support of the Goodman softball complex and the new Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Softball Training Center. And to all of the softball alumni, family and friends who have donated their time and money to make this dream project possible.
Thank you to coach Alvarez, Terry Gawlik, Marija Pientka and all the senior staff in the UW Athletics department for their outstanding commitment to women's athletics.
People say it takes a village to raise child, or build a championship program, and after coaching the Badger softball team for the past two years, we know that's true. We are committed to growing Wisconsin softball into a nationally-ranked, NCAA tournament team that competes for a Big Ten championship each year, and a big part of that journey starts today.
We are extremely proud of the strides we've made as a program over the past two years, posting back-to-back 30 win seasons, tying a record for the most wins in school history and earning the most Big Ten wins in a season this year. Yet, we still have a lot of work to do. We know to take this program to the next level, it will take year-round commitment from our student-athletes, state of the art facilities and blue chip recruiting. The addition of the Goodman Softball Training Center will give us a new competitive advantage on all of these fronts.
I've always thought Goodman stadium had one of the most beautiful locations in the country. When you can combine a world-renowned academic degree with nationally ranked athletics, you have something special. The scenery of this beautiful lakefront view coupled with this new state of the state of the art indoor space will now make the of the Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Softball Training Center one of the premiere softball stadiums in the Big Ten and the country.
It's exciting to enter into the final weekend of regular season play for the Wisconsin softball team. We hit the road for Nebraska on Thursday. We're currently 33-17, with a 12-8 Big Ten record, which ties us for 4th place with Nebraska. This is a huge weekend for the Badger softball program. We're a top-50 program right now, on the bubble for making our first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005.
Nebraska has always been a great softball program. The Cornhuskers have made 21 NCAA tournament appearances and seven trips to the Women's College World series. With their 13-0 record at home, we know we'll have our work cut out for us on this trip. The exciting thing is, it's May and we still have a shot at the post-season. Being a life-long Chicago Cubs fan, there haven't been many October's when we're still cheering for the Cubs. It's fun to have so much to play for during our last regular season weekend.
What a great season we've had in 2012. We've broken a lot of offensive records, and put together a few record-breaking win streaks at home and throughout the season. Our challenge is to take the program to the next level, and create a national presence. The biggest question for the Badgers softball team is when. When do we turn that corner? When do we start putting up big wins over legacy programs? When can we get the big wins, against the best teams, when it counts the most?
Everything is coming right down to the wire, with two games Friday night and our last regular season game on Saturday. How we do this weekend will have a big impact, as we wait for the NCAA tournament selection show Sunday night at 9 p.m.
What a great opportunity for this young team to experience in May!
To see them working overtime on their own -- to see them doing all the little things that are important to stability and success -- is a sign to Healy that her second-year program is arriving.
"It's great to see softball starting to take a lead from what women's hockey has done and some of the other great programs here have done as far as putting in all that extra work,'' Healy said.
"Some players thought they were working hard and didn't really know what it feels like to work hard at a BCS-level program, so they've kicked it into gear.
"It's a culture thing. You don't want it to be just one or two kids who are taking it seriously and are emotionally invested. You want it to be everybody -- but we're getting there.
"We still have some who are in the phase where the light bulb is turning on. We'll arrive as a program when our entire roster, from top to bottom, has that sense of urgency for 12 months.''
The Badgers have made positive strides in that direction on the diamond by playing themselves into contention for a Big Ten championship and an NCAA tournament bid.
"It's exciting in the month of May for this program to be in the hunt (for a league title),'' Healy said. "That we're in the conversation is already a huge step for the program.''
Especially when you consider the company that they're keeping; the Badgers are within striking distance of first-place Michigan in the Big Ten standings.
On being in such rarified air -- with the Wolverines here for a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday -- Healy has instructed her players to "embrace it, enjoy it; we're the underdogs.''
Perspective is not lacking.
"We just talked to the players about how Michigan has everything to lose here,'' she noted.
Wisconsin has never beaten Michigan in Madison.
"They've got all the history, they've got all the Big Ten championships,'' Healy said of the No. 23-ranked Wolverines, the NCAA champion in 2005. "They're a Goliath in the softball world.
"We realize that we're going against the best at the toughest time of the year. Still, we're excited to play them at home in front of all our fans on a big stage when it counts.''
Healy is undaunted by the challenge of facing Michigan and Nebraska on back-to-back weekends, even though the Badgers must travel to Lincoln, where the Cornhuskers are 13-0 this season.
"As a staff, it's exactly what we want,'' she said. "A lot of people would like to face some of the teams that are struggling. But you want to face the best if you really want to build a program.''
The first stage in the building process took place last season and extended to the off-season.
"We had some tough meetings with some players at the end of last year,'' Healy said. "They needed to make huge strides in terms of getting stronger, working harder and putting more time in.''
Among those players, Healy said, was Whitney Massey.
"That kid has made more strides than anyone,'' she said proudly of Massey's improvement. "She's done a nice job hitting out of the three hole and bringing a solid, left-handed bat to the line-up.''
Another player who has "stepped up her game'' has been Michelle Mueller.
"For as strong as she is, she didn't have any power numbers last year,'' Healy said. "But you could tell she was in the batting cage all summer. She's got a baseball family and she's a cage rat.''
Not unlike a "gym rat.'' There have been others who have responded in like fashion.
"You watch them play,'' Healy said, "and you know that they have lived it (softball) all summer long and all winter long; they've been in the weight room and in the cages and it's starting to show.''
Healy didn't pull any punches in her end-of-the-year meetings with individuals.
"Young players sometimes think you're just there to say all the nice things and cheer for them,'' she said. "But we have to be some of the most honest people in their lives.
"We tell them, 'Here's what you're doing well, here's where you're not cutting it. This is the expectation.' They really took it well. We kept it positive. Reality hurts some time; the truth hurts.''
Healy resisted the "no pain, no gain'' cliché, but she made her point.
So has her team so far this season. But an exclamation point is still missing.
"Beating a Top-25 team is the next step that you have to take,'' Healy said.
In this week's blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about how there are no shortcuts when building a championship program.
It's great to be back in Madison after a long weekend in West Lafayette, Ind. We traveled to Purdue and split on Saturday before dropping a heartbreaker yesterday. It was only the second Big Ten series we've lost all year.
It's amazing how much it hurts to lose games and drop series. There's a lot of emotional investment in the Badger softball program right now. Our biggest challenge is how we respond to these setbacks. Sports are amazing. They'll rip your heart out sometimes.
I think the losses along the way are just as important as the wins. We love to see what each kid does when she struggles. Does she try to go it alone? Does she back down and get quiet, getting inside her own head? Does she get sad when things don't go her way? Or, does she trust her training, work even harder, and battle back? We challenge our kids everyday not to be selfish. We challenge them to focus on the team, finding a way to contribute even when things are bad. It's such a life lesson, focusing out-word and upward when things are at their worst. Successful people reach out to their teammates and coaches, and find a way to overcome the tough times. They keep things in perspective, and work to overcome their obstacles.
It really has been such a great year so far. We're 30-15 right now, and the Big Ten race is wide open. Wisconsin is 12-6 in conference play, tied for fourth, but just one game out of first with Michigan sitting at 13-5.
Of course we hate that we lost, but we were so pleased with how we hit the ball at Purdue. We scored 14 runs in three games, with 28 hits; they scored 14 runs on 21 hits. It really came down to defense. They pressured us into seven errors this weekend, and had a few key hits when it counted. That's what good teams do though, they pressure and they force you to work very hard for every out. Despite a lot of fight and several great rally innings, we couldn't overcome some of the early and costly mistakes we made in the games we lost.
Here's the exciting part. We have the second best batting average and slugging percentage in conference play, hitting .323, with a .459 slugging percentage. Michigan leads both of those categories. They've also won the conference title the last three years. What an exciting time to face them at home this weekend.
It's funny when you look at the new Big Ten schedule. A lot of fans and teams are complaining about fairness, since each team won't face three other conference foes each season. We've never gotten caught up in that argument. We'll face the No. 1 and No. 2 teams these last two weekends, with six games left against Michigan and Nebraska.
I couldn't think of a better way to finish the season. If you really are a true competitor, you want the tougher road. You want to face the best teams, in the toughest situations, when it matters most.
The path of least resistance sounds appealing, but it's never gotten anyone far. When building a championship program, there are no shortcuts and there's no easy way out. You have to earn every ounce of respect you get, and you'll have to fight for every win and each accolade you collect along the way. Our staff knows that we're the underdogs entering these last few weekends, and that's right where we want to be. We have a scrappy group of hard-working, tenacious young ladies that have something left to prove. Sure the task at hand is big, and truly challenging, but isn't that why we all play and coach this game?
In this week's blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the journey towards being a champion.
Success, like happiness, is not a destination. It's a journey, a path you choose, a way of life. I am so proud of our Badger softball family. We are on the path of improvement right now, and enjoying the journey as we work to build a championship program.
After being at Wisconsin for one and a half years, a lot of people ask what's so special about Madison and what makes the Badger athletic department great. It truly is a family atmosphere and a winning culture. For our Badger softball team, culture has been the number one thing that we've been working to build, nurture and sustain.
For our staff, creating a championship culture is about empowerment. When teams and student-athletes struggle on the field, in the classroom and in their lives, there's an overwhelming feeling that life, circumstances and situations are out of our control. Somehow things aren't fair, and they'll never change. This negativity breeds negativity, ultimately demotivating, and creating a culture of apathy. No one works hard, there are lots of excuses, and the cycle of failure propels itself.
Our softball team is 11-4 in conference right now, in second place behind Michigan. That ties us for the most Big Ten wins in the history of the program, with three tough weekends left to play. Our 27-13 record makes us a top 50 team, out of nearly 300 D1 softball programs in the country. With six athletes hitting over .300, there's a lot to be excited about. Yet what we're most proud of with this group is the culture of pride and accountability they're working to create.
One of the most gratifying things that any of us can do in a lifetime is to create something new and special. Many people have played in successful programs, and lived prosperous lives with great relationships. Yet what's truly special, is when a group of young women come together to change history. It takes an incredible amount of work, passion, resilience, and belief to create something that hasn't always been there. When student-athletes can overcome obstacles and adversity to succeed, and become the athletes and people they always dreamed of, that is life-changing. True empowerment for our young women is experiencing the invaluable life-lesson that anything is possible. If your situation is bad; in sports, in school, or in life, you have the ability to work to create a new reality. They can change their attitudes, approach, and work-ethic to build a better life.
What makes this journey even more special is the caliber of people, and quality of character in our program. After sweeping Penn State yesterday in front of a record crowd of 1,000 fans, our softball staff and student-athletes volunteered their time to coach and mentor 70 young softball players in a Kids Clinic at our stadium. That type of service leadership in the community is heart-warming. Even after the clinic ended, our athletes stayed to sign autographs and eat pizza with the young softball players and their families.
Kid's Clinic Photo Gallery
We have a lot of season left as we enter the home stretch of 2012. Six of our nine remaining Big Ten games are on the road, and we'll play the top three teams these last three weekends as we travel to Purdue and Nebraska, and host nationally-ranked Michigan. We also have five huge non-conference games at home during the next few weeks. It's fun to be on the path and in the hunt. We have a lot of work to do as a team, to become a championship program. Yet, right now, our staff has a tremendous amount of pride as we look at how hard this group is working together to improve every day