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Transcript: Healy previews Big Ten tournament


May 5, 2014

 Healy News Conference Small Video Graphic

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin softball coach Yvette Healy talked with the media Monday about winning three of five games against Nebraska (one) and Michigan (two) this past week and previews the Big Ten tournament in which the Badgers will play the winner of Northwestern/Michigan State on Friday.

Video of Healy's media session can be found above, and a complete transcript of her remarks are below.

Coach Healy: It's been a good couple of weeks for the Badgers. As the weather's warming up, I think we've been warming up as a team a little bit. It's been fun to see the girls come together. We had a great Senior Day weekend to close things out a week ago with a lot of fans coming out and supporting us. I don't think we could have closed things out better than going up to Michigan on their Senior Day and seeing our team really kind of dig deep and take the series there.

We're still on a whirlwind from getting in late last night off the bus trip and now gearing up for Northwestern on Friday.

Of course, for how hard our schedule's been, we're excited to play Northwestern, but I don't think there's a tougher opening round that we could have than the host teams so hot at home. It's going to be nonstop excitement.

QUESTION: Before the last home stand opened, when you faced Purdue, I think you said, quite frankly, that you thought you were a bubble team at the time. But how much of your chance has been enhanced by what you've done since then?

Coach Healy: I think that was a huge week or two for us. We had to play well, and we did. We got some big wins. It's always out of your hands a little bit when you're questioning, but you play your whole season trying to get a couple top 25 wins, and to put together a week like we did to get three of them in the same week, I mean, usually, it takes about 40 or 50 games to get three of those.

We're happy with where we're at. I think Northwestern is in a similar spot that we are, though, too. So it's once again kind of interesting that we've bubbled with them the last three years. They knocked us out two years ago, and last year we got in and they didn't. So it's just kind of a fun matchup that of course it ends this way.

QUESTION: There were some pretty ridiculous stats on Twitter about Michigan, like you guys hadn't beat them in a series since '99 and they'd only lost three series in the last four years in the conference. What does taking two out of three mean for you guys? Is it possible to get too high too soon because it's such a big series win?

Coach Healy: You know, those were crazy stats. I think you probably saw the same stats against Nebraska too, that they had outscored opponents 89 3 or 4 or something in their last ten games before we beat them.

We knew they were just two perennial programs and that we had to play well. It was pretty exciting. I actually think on Saturday, when we were on TV, we were too excited, and the team was so jacked up to play Michigan, and we didn't play that well. On Sunday we got together as a group going into the game, as we were 1 1, and we just said, look, just play good softball. Don't make this like it's the biggest accomplishment of your life. You've got the ability to do it. Play, stay the course.

I was really proud that we won, they were excited, but there weren't any dog piles yet. Everyone was glad to beat Michigan on their field, but you saw there was kind of a maturity to it; that people were like, okay, this isn't the craziest thing I've ever seen. Nobody's going to go out and get a tattoo now from this game. You're just going to enjoy it and hopefully ride it out into the postseason.

QUESTION: Yvette, how do you explain Sara Novak's weekend? Did you see that coming at all?

Coach Healy: You know, it's funny. She's a Chicago kid, and so I've gotten to see her play for a lot of years. She played some summer ball at Michigan on their field. They hosted a tournament. And Randy and I talked about the fact that she was pretty impressive in her summer ball, hitting some big home runs. And I said, you know, it's going to be in their head a little bit. And we talked about it. And Tancill has been great for us at second. And she got a concussion. And we said this might be the stars speaking to us a little bit here that give that kid a little break and a breather, platoon them a bit, and see if she can catch fire again.

Because no one on our team had played in Michigan stadium. The seniors hadn't played a series there yet, and just the way it had worked out. So we said actually the kid with the most experience going in that stadium is Novak. And Randy is a gut kind of guy making the lineup and coaching third, and he said, I really feel this. And, boy, was his gut right.

QUESTION: You went to Darrah yesterday for the last three innings when you needed to and she did the job, but I think her last two starts have probably been not up to her standards, you would agree. is she getting a little bit tired? Or the last few starts, what's been the issue?

Coach Healy: It's a big deal that Nebraska put the hurt on her, and so did Michigan. She's a great kid, but she's scouted this year. People are watching a lot of film, and everyone is gunning for her. When you walk out of the conference tournament as the MVP of the conference tournament, everyone knows your name. People can actually pronounce Darrah now. Last year and a couple of years before, people didn't even know how to say her name.

She's had to battle through that, but she's done a great job with it. The composure that she showed to come in yesterday and throw the seventh, eighth, and ninth inning, it's the best pitching I've ever seen her do. I mean, hands down. To shut Michigan out, and they are just they're unreal. If you see Michigan and Nebraska hit, I'm a fan of good softball, and it's like going to a Brewers game or a you go watch great hitters hit, and you just stare and you go buy a hot dog. And that's what you felt like at Michigan, that you just wanted to buy some popcorn and watch these kids swing.

And Darrah comes in and puts a zero on the board three innings in a row on their senior day, it's the best softball I've seen her pitch.

QUESTION: How much do you rely on last year's Big Ten Tournament when entering it this year?

Coach Healy: You have to draw on it just to remember that it's possible. And I think that's with this group the big thing that we've talked is just really anything's possible.

And you have to remind people. Because some kids weren't there. We said after we played kind of bad against Michigan on Saturday, I said the fact is we've got a new shortstop in Ashley Van Zeeland, we've got a new second baseman with Tancill, and we've got Chloe Miller behind the plate as a freshman, we've got Novak as a freshman.

So after the game I said, Guys, act like you've been here before. And some of them said, Coach, we haven't.

So you want to remind all the kids that have been there that it's happened and it's possible. You've got to play high end softball at the right time, but I think everyone knows at least it's an option.

QUESTION: Six weeks ago Northwestern got the best of you guys. Just how different is this team today than you were six weeks ago?

Coach Healy: I think there's more confidence. Northwestern is still they've been in the top 25 all year. You go in there at their place for the numbers they put up at home they won the Big Ten Tournament the last time they hosted it.

Although we're the 4, and most likely they're going to be the 5 facing us, I think they probably have if betting were allowed, you might see people putting money on them because they're just that good.

I think it's going to be a great matchup, when you see a high octane offense. But luckily we've had to face Nebraska and Michigan going into it. I don't think you could write it up any better to prepare yourself. They're going to be tough, but at least we've been facing the best hitters in the country the last couple of games. Might as well keep doing it.

QUESTION: Back to Darrah against Michigan in the relief role for a second. It came one day after they got they hit her pretty well. Did she change her approach in how she attacked the hitters at all, or did she just physically pitch better?

Coach Healy: We had a little different strategy. We adjusted a couple things, the pitch calling. She worked with Tracie Adix, our pitching coach, on a couple things, fine tuning.

I think she just beared down, though, and dug a little deeper. But we did throw a little bit differently, and I think it was a nice complement. She was excited that we had a couple different combinations that she saw work, that we're excited to work with.

Darrah and we had a combo in the Purdue game when we threw Taylor Paige Stewart the beginning of the last game with Purdue and then Darrah came in in relief, and we really liked how that looked, and then to see it again against Michigan. That might be a look that we see a lot now for the whole postseason of why not use two great pitchers that have two different looks.

QUESTION: After what you guys did last year, do you feel the target is any bigger going into this edition of the Big Ten Tournament?

Coach Healy: I'm sure there was no target on our back last year. I'm sure this year people are looking at us. The fact is we're not the Big Ten champ walking in. Michigan and Nebraska both won it. They're great teams, and they got to celebrate and have a nice time yesterday, and we took a ten hour bus ride home. There's not too much glamour when those teams are taking jets all over to their games. We take the bus, and we're a blue collar team trying to win games.

I think everyone knows we had the excitement last year. The thing I've heard from coaches is: Can you sustain that excitement? Sure, you guys play hard, but can you play hard that many games? Can you recreate the magic every single game? And we try to.

QUESTION: You can be honest now because it's older, but going into last week, what were the realistic expectations, and how much did you exceed it with what you guys did?

Coach Healy: That's a great question. We said going in, any time you face a top 25 team, you're just trying to get a win. If you can get a top 25 win, so you've got to look at that stretch of five games. And I think 80 to 90 percent of the teams in the country are going to get blamed in those five games.

And we said, ah, if we could take one from each of those teams, it would be a great week. Taking one out of the five would have actually still been a really good week. Because you only have a couple top 25 games wins the entire season. So, again, if you add one more to your resume, it's great. So three, we were really proud of the team.

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