March 27, 2012
• Watch Healy's press conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin softball head coach Yvette Healy met the media Monday at part of Wisconsin Athletics' weekly news conference to discuss the start of the 2012 season on the road, as the team played in five tournaments and had its first Big Ten matchup at Iowa this past weekend.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Healy's remarks can be found below.
Yvette Healy: It's great to be home. It has been a long stretch for us. You hear the 23 games or however many in a row, but for us, it's six weekends in a row too. So we're excited to have our student-athletes back home, to sleep in our own beds, and start playing in front of our Wisconsin fans.
It's been a good start to the season. We've had a more challenging schedule than we did last year. Pretty similar record right now at this point in the season that we had last year, but we've seen a lot more Top 25 opponents. So we feel like we've been through the battle a little bit, and now we're looking forward to getting back to the Midwest a little.
QUESTION #1: How was your weekend in Iowa City?
HEALY: I love going to Iowa. Maybe it's just being from Chicago and the Midwest and how it's just such a Midwest town, and there are so many Cubs fans. But it was great to go there. When I saw the schedule when I first took over, that we'd have to go to Iowa twice in a row … Iowa's just a legacy program. They've got four World Series appearances, 16 NCAAs, and, going into it, I think our record was 28-7 all time with Iowa having the lead in the series.
So to have to play them twice last year there and three times this year, we knew we'd have our hands full. We're pretty evenly matched to them, and to come out with two out of three is great for our young club and our young pitchers.
QUESTION #2: What did you learn most about your team on this long road stretch? I'm guessing quite a bit.
HEALY: Oh, yeah. You learn more than you want to about a team when you're on the road for six weekends in a row with a group of 25 young women. But, it was good.
We haven't gotten over the hump for really beating some really big-time teams yet. We haven't gotten over the hump to get a ton of momentum leading into Iowa.
So that was a critical weekend for us, to put together some wins, because every coach just wants their team to learn how to win. And, they weren't pretty games, and they were all one-run games, but to come out with two wins is huge on the road. So that's the biggest thing, to see that confidence and ability to just put together a W is a big deal.
QUESTION #3: How much of a step have Amanda Najdek, Cassandra Darrah and Meghan McIntosh taken this year from last year?
HEALY: They're making nice strides. They're still, they're not dominant yet. In pitching in softball, you get 21 outs in seven innings, and your best pitchers are going to give you 10, 12 strikeouts, and it makes everyone's life easier. They're great. They're doing a great job of helping managing the ball, keep it in the park, but we're still a low strikeout team.
So we're going to have to work really hard. And I think they've just gotten smarter about managing hitters and containing hitters and getting people to ground the ball out, and contain hitters a little bit more, but they're making big, they've made big strides.
And, you know, that's all about Tracie Adix, our pitching coach. She's just done such a great job. She's a young pitching coach, and I had the nice thrill of getting to coach her when she as a student-athlete. So to see her working with our staff, she works very hard, and they've made big strides.
QUESTION #4: Are you surprised by Maria Van Abel and what she's been able to do so far?
HEALY: You know, she's probably one of the most fun kids to talk about. I saw Maria last year just as a senior, and she's the type of person, when you meet her, you know she's going to be successful. I've heard from Bret and from Bo and from all the coaches here, and Barry, about recruiting Wisconsin kids and finding some great overachieving type players.
And the minute I met Maria, I said this is a kid who's going to be successful. Smart, well spoken, great attitude, hard worker, so she had everything in place when we recruited her that we said you could be this kind of player and really walk in the door and do something. She's had a huge learning curve, and it's all attributed to how hard that kid works.
But to lead the Big Ten in hitting as a walk-on from the state of Wisconsin, who made her decision in July to switch schools and come to us, it's phenomenal. It's a great story. She's got some friends that were recruited from the state and went out of state and kind of passed on us when we had the coaching change.
So it's, for me, I was a speed player, obviously, not anymore especially seven months pregnant. But to get to work with someone like that is just, it's a thrill. You know, you love to see something match up where you feel like you've got something to help teach and work with. But she's just a great person, and, it couldn't happen to a better person for how well she's doing this year.
And I really think that's the future of our program, to find some of these great Midwest players and stick with them and grow from, you know, from the inside out instead of looking at everything from just the West Coast.
QUESTION #4: Given your extended road trip, what's the personality of this team? Have you been able to get a read on it?
HEALY: You know, that's interesting. They are just a nice, hardworking group of athletes. We're looking for a little more grit, and we're starting to get it. But what I'm most impressed with this group is that you see that they want to win, and they're starting to put the time and the effort, and they're really emotionally invested in it.
But this is what we're starting to look for them to turn the corner of going from being a nice, I said all year long, we're kind of just a nice split team. We'll win a game. We'll lose a game. We split a ton of days, and, you know, that is fine for when you're just kind of competing and going out there and holding your own, but you've got to see them kind of turn a corner and start getting a little, we told them yesterday to get selfish, even though it was Sunday. It was time to kind of start getting selfish and get a little meaner and angry. And we're starting to see moments of that, which is big for this young group.