April 15, 2013
• Watch Healy News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin softball head coach Yvette Healy met with the media Monday to talk about the Badgers’ home opener, 37-game road swing and the team’s progress.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Healy’s remarks can be found below.
Healy: It's great to be home. We have been on the road a long time. We know Wisconsin hasn't felt like spring yet for most of us. I think the weekend has been that first kickoff that people are starting to feel it. It's nice to see the lakes melting. I'm sure the ice fishermen aren't happy, but the softball team is thrilled to be back in Madison, and we're excited to get seven in a row home right now. So that's our focus.
Question: How have you been playing of late leading up to this home stand coming up?
Healy: Good question. The last two weekends have been tough because we faced two of our toughest opponents, seeing Minnesota on the road, who's a top 30 team, and then playing Nebraska. So to take one game at each of those on paper doesn't look great, but we were thrilled to take one from Nebraska. You go in there, and they're a top 25 team.
And last year we put together a really nice season and set the record for wins in the program, but we really didn't have those top 25 wins. So we got one against Stanford. We got one -- two against Iowa, North Carolina, and then to go to Nebraska -- that's our goal is just kind of chip away and keep putting together more top 25 wins.
So we're happy. It's hard when you're winning, no one wants to lose, so it's hard to keep the morale up. But we understand as coaches what a big deal that was.
Question: Are you road weary?
Healy: That's a good question too. No, not weary, but I think everyone is optimistic about coming home. The record we've put together on the road, as a staff, again, we're just thrilled to be able to do that, to put together that many wins when you're traveling.
But we're just excited that there's no team in the top 50 that hasn't played at home. We'd like to even the playing field a little bit. We're fortunate to get into the top 25 a week ago, and Florida State kind of bumped us out. I was looking at their record, and they've been home for 30 games and have about 22 home wins. So kudos to them for putting it together there, but we're excited to see if we can get on a roll at home, if playing in front of our fans can help us and give us a boost.
Question: You have 10 of your last 13 at home. Pretty good opportunity, wouldn't you say?
Healy: Sure. I like where we're at. We're halfway done with our Big Ten season. We're sitting in fifth place, so we're in the top half there. I think we might be a sleeper right now. We're kind of under the radar, and that's where we like to be. We've been an underdog team.
If we can play well at home down the stretch here, we've already put together a tremendous amount of wins. To win that many games in the Big Ten already is a good year, and we're already halfway done. We're excited to play here.
Our kids have played really well at home before. We've had great fan turnout the last couple of years. We've done a lot of kids' clinics and worked hard to get involved in the community. We're doing that again on Sunday with Ohio State. We're going to have a free kids clinic -- a kids clinic, not a free one, but a nice little community event. We packed the place last year when we played against Penn State and had over 1,000 fans and swept them. I'd love to see the same thing. 1,000 fans and the sweep.
Question: Knowing that you've played, looking at the schedule, 75 percent of your games on the road, has that maybe showed you some resiliency in your team, and have they taught you anything about the way they perform?
Healy: Absolutely. We met with Coach Alvarez several times, and he talked about battling adversity. When we had some games cancelled, he said, well, just another chance to battle adversity and see what kind of character you've got.
We've gotten to do that. When you play against great teams, especially at their place, you learn something. When you play at Iowa, at Nebraska, you realize why these teams are so good because they've got this great home field advantage, and they bring out the fans, and they get excited.
To be able to put together a lot of wins on the road, I think, makes it even tougher. We're pleased with what we've been able to do traveling. We're excited for Madison. Who doesn't love Madison?
Question: Is this team better than last year's team? I know the season's not over yet, but for getting records, is it a better team from top to bottom, and if so, why?
Healy: It's a very similar -- on paper, we lost one player last year, and we added a lot of freshmen. We didn't lose a ton. So we've got our pitchers back. They're a year smarter. I think from an ERA standpoint, tremendously better.
Our pitchers, we've got a junior and a senior, Cassandra Darrah and Meghan McIntosh, they've thrown three no hitters this season. I think it had been a decade since the last no-hitter, and then to put three together in the same season, that's a big deal. So you've got to get your pitching better.
Even this last one, we wanted to win that game in Nebraska. We had a chance yesterday, we were 1-1. I said to the team afterwards, you've got to be able to crawl before you can walk. To win one game on the road against a top 25 team at their place, you've got to learn how to win one before you learn how to win the series. That's what we're doing.
I've got a little 10-month-old at home, and it was a reminder this morning. Little Maeve was crawling and walking. That's a great analogy. We're doing it in the Healy house and trying to focus on one thing at a time, letting her crawl and then walk. I think that's what the Badger softball team is dealing with right now. Everybody is anxious. They want to be the top 25 team now. We're hovering. We're a top 30 team, and that's a huge improvement.
Question: You've won 25 games. It hasn't all been about pitching, has it?
Healy: No. The offense has done a nice job. We've got some lefties in the lineup that are giving us a nice boost, good strategy. The defense is playing well. You really have to do all of them. To be able to win games and be in the top 25, you can't just pitch. You've got to be pretty balanced. That's been our goal all year.
It's been fun without having a superstar. I like to say, we don't have a superstar on the coaching staff. When they hired me, they didn't bring in a superstar. We're a balanced staff. Everybody does a lot. It's the same thing with our players. We've got a lot of nice players, but we don't have one hero. We've got a lot of kids that step up at different times.
Question: What's your favorite moment thus far from the road, and how do you keep this team -- how do you break up the monotony, so to speak, being in hotels, and being in airports, and being on buses? What's the approach to try to keep things fresh?
Healy: We're a pretty light-hearted staff. So we try to keep it fresh by just enjoying it and remember it's about getting better and really embrace spending time with the players and getting to know them better. We, as a staff, I love the relationships that we've gotten to build. Getting all that time, you can think it's time away from your own family, your own kids, but we've looked at it, how do we build more relationships? With the staff, with the support staff, with the players, it's been fun just getting to know them and hanging out.
From a memory standpoint, I mean, that win at Nebraska was about as big of a win as I've seen in my coaching career, and even as an assistant coach, you get to play some great teams, but winning there, for how good they are at home, really was tremendous. Last year they were 17-1 at home, and we had the one win. And this year they're 9-2, and we've got one of those wins. So you go to Nebraska, and you walk in, and the banners say 50 NCAA Tournament wins, and you're staring at it the entire game because it's in centerfield, and it says 50 NCAA Tournament Wins, and we're playing against them with one, one in the history of the program for an NCAA Tournament win.
So you know what you're up against in terms of legacy, and they've been to the World Series six times. When you're trying to build something, there's nothing better than getting to see right in your face what you're up against and what you'd like to be a part of. After that win, it was pretty memorable. Even from a strategy standpoint, I loved it. The staff kind of got together and said, we've got to mix things up. Let's look at their weaknesses. What can we do? We wound up throwing a ton of lefties in the lineup because some of our lefties had success.
One of our walk-ons from Wisconsin, our centerfielder Maria Van Abel, had a tremendous game in the first game, but we wound up losing. We said, well, she's got a former teammate and another freshman, Ashley Van Zeeland, who hadn't seen time in the lineup, a little lefty walk-on we've been dealing with. Let's give her a shot and see how she does, and little Ashley Van Zeeland comes out and gets two hits against Nebraska in her debut.
When you can do that against a ranked team, it's exciting as coaches when you can get a lot out of your players. We talk about overachieving all the time and maximizing talent. So that was fun. Nice long answer for you.