May 6, 2013
• Watch Healy Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin softball head coach Yvette Healy met with the media Monday to discuss the Badgers' preparations for this weekend's Big Ten Outdoor tournament.
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: Great to be here. Fun to be in the home stretch of the season. We're excited to get that bye. When you look at the Big Ten, how strong it is this year, compared to even where the conference has been the last couple of years. Four, five, maybe six teams will get into the tournament, and you've got six teams in the top 50. It's a tough conference this year.
So we're thrilled to put together some wins. It's been a really good season so far. Had a little rough one this weekend, but at least we haven't peaked. So, yeah, looking forward to going to Nebraska again.
QUESTION: Kind of recap the weekend against Michigan State. You seem to be playing them very well.
HEALY: We have been. Going into the last four series, we gave ourselves a goal the last four conference series, if you can get 8 wins out of that, of those 11, we'd be pretty happy. We wound up taking 9 of the last 11. Unfortunately, two of those losses came within 24 hours, when you lose 2 out of 3 to Michigan State. The best part of the weekend was the fans. If you're from Madison and you get to see 2000 people at Goodman Stadium, it was unreal. It really was the closest thing to a championship environment you could get.
People turned out in droves. It was huge. It was a beautiful day. To have that many fans there, I think, really helped our team start to get ready for what the postseason and the conference tournament is going to feel like.
From a bad standpoint, we really didn't deliver. We lost 2 out of 3. From a good standpoint, we got to get the experience in. We saw some good things. We're hitting the long ball. That's fun. People are jumping up and watching people hit it over the fence, which is really exciting. We've got some room to go. So I'm really thrilled we got that championship environment a week early, and hopefully we can learn from it, and the next two weekends get better.
QUESTION: Losing 2 of 3, is that kind of a thing where you're going all season and not having a break? Was it kind of maybe a letdown toward the end of the year? Was everything just building up for this one?
HEALY: I think you lose 2 out of 3 when you've got a tough conference. I think on paper people could say where we were at in conference going into the weekend being second, but the Big Ten is a great conference. We didn't play terribly, but you really have to do something special in the Big Ten to win games. Even for us, to put together 16 wins in the Big Ten. Michigan has more wins in the Big Ten, and that's it right now.
It's tough to win. Anybody is really good. You're looking at big time BCS players that are strong and fit, and it's a battle. So I just tip my hat to Michigan State. I think they came out fired up. I think they played really well.
We had some really good performances from a couple of individuals, but it just shows you you've got to do it all. You've got to pitch, and you've got to hit, and you've got to defend. They outdid us this weekend, and it makes me realize how special it is when you do win.
QUESTION: What's it take to succeed in the Big Ten Tournament? What are the keys?
HEALY: Playing in a conference tournament, the tough part is you have a lot of teams that have more postseason and tournament experience than we do. There are a lot of people you're going to match up with like Northwestern, who have been to the World Series, been in the championship game in the Big Ten Tournament. They've got a tremendous amount of postseason experience, and we're building it. It's tough to replicate it.
This weekend, I think the school did everything they could to help us replicate that environment and start getting used to it, but we can't tell them to act like we've been here before because we haven't. We're just going to have to pitch well and hit and defend. Hopefully, play some good softball.
I think all year long we've been really consistent, and when you're able to put together 39 wins and 11 losses, you're on a really nice winning percentage, but you've got to keep getting better, and you've got to be clutch from multiple people. We need a couple more people to step up, and then the pitching's got to hold them down.
QUESTION: Is this program where you thought it would be when you first started? You're only a few years into it. Are you right at about where you thought you'd be after just a few years?
HEALY: It's a good question. We're really pleased with where we're at. I think we've made great strides. To be going in the conference tournament with 39 wins, and 16 wins in conference, we're thrilled. A tremendous amount of hard work has gone into it.
We're happy with where we're at, and we know we still have room to get better. That's the fun part of, when you can be sitting here after a weekend like that with the numbers that we've got and say, wow, we can do better. It shows that you're a little greedy but that you know there's still a lot of potential left. The fact that you haven't peaked with putting together some wins is a good thing.
QUESTION: What are your NCAA prospects, and what has to happen this week to enhance that?
HEALY: You know, we're sitting in a nice position. We finished the last rankings being in the top 25. We like where we're at from that standpoint. Obviously, you need to play good softball in the tournament, though. It's tough. When you get a bye, it's a great thing. Everybody's excited. But you're down to the top eight teams then when you first step on the field.
There won't be an easy game. Right from the start, you're going to be battling someone who's a top 50 team. You're going to have to play phenomenal softball every single day just to survive. You win one game, and you're down to the top four. To get even the first win would be huge for us.
So that's the goal, and I think we've got nice chances, but we've got to keep playing some good softball.
QUESTION: You've got Mary Massei, Whitney Massey, Shannel Blackshear, your pitchers all have gotten headlines along the way. Is there an unsung hero on this team?
HEALY: A lot of girls have stepped up in big situations. You look at Michelle Mueller, one of our Wisconsin kids, and in our last series against Northwestern, she was lights out. She had home runs in both games. We cheer for all of them, but it's fun to see the Wisconsin kids like Michelle, and Maria Van Abel has put up big numbers and made great diving catches in the outfield. They're not quite as flashy, but it's fun to have multiple kids that can really make some noise.
QUESTION: With the long list of firsts you guys have accomplished this year, do you think this team is still hungry for more?
HEALY: I think definitely. If they weren't hungry, this weekend, I think people are starving after this weekend. You lose two games in a weekend, and everybody realizes just, wow, it's not fun. We were in single digit losses going into this weekend, which is crazy. There are very few teams in the country that could say they had less than double digit losses.
So people are fired up. I think it helps of course, you never like to be humbled, but we've had a couple of really humbling experiences over the course of a year, and this was one of them. So right when it matters most, I think it's another great wakeup call of just realizing it's special. Every win you have to scratch and claw for.
And I think the team is really focused and excited about going to Nebraska and having the chance to play on a big stage and take a shot at some big legacy programs like Northwestern, like Michigan, like Nebraska. There's no one you're going to play that isn't phenomenal.
QUESTION: Obviously, Michigan and Nebraska are the class of the conference. You guys are right up there with them. Where do you think you sit with those guys in terms of are you at their level? Are you still a shade behind them? Or maybe you're even above them? Where do you stand in terms of the elite team in the conference?
HEALY: Those teams are elite. It's something to remember, if you're an outsider looking in, wow, Wisconsin, just to get mentioned for us with Nebraska and Michigan, those go a long way. Those are teams with 15, 16 World Series between them. We're a team that's just trying to win games in the NCAA Tournament, to make the tournament, and then to build on we told our team, you make it in the tournament and you win one game, you just doubled your NCAA Tournament wins in the program.
You'll hear us joking around a lot in the dugout, you know, we've got a long way to go. Those are legacy programs. They do a great job. They've been there. They've experienced it. I think our team is hungry just to have a part of it. It's a compliment just to be asked where we stand in comparison to them.
They've done so much in the Midwest that we just try to learn from those teams and see how we can take a shot at them.
QUESTION: In men's basketball, the Badgers did a pretty big number in the Big Ten Tournament with beating Michigan and Indiana. Have you talked to Bo Ryan about facing some top ranked teams and knocking off the best?
HEALY: We might have to bring Bo out again. Bo has spoken to this group last year. He's funny. He's a men's fast pitch guy, and he loves to talk about his experiences in Philly with that.
They know how to get it done in the tournament, and they were fun to watch this year. You know our team was watching basketball make a run and cheering them on and looking at them doing dances in the locker room afterwards. So that's a group that we've pulled on our peers many times to say, let us know how you guys get it done.
We've got Ed Nuttycombe in the room right now, and we'd love for Ed to tell us how to win Big Ten Championships. He knows what it takes. We've got to pull from Wisconsin from their playbook and see what we can do to rally against these teams because it's true. You face the best year in and year out and game in and game out, and it's not going to be easy, but it's fun to see other teams and other players that have done it, even this year, and hopefully we can take a lesson from their playbook.
QUESTION: What have your seniors meant to building the program, and how much are you going to lean on them this week?
HEALY: Oh, they're huge. The seniors really it's a senior heavy program. They're in the starting lineup. We need for them to play well for us to do well. It was real emotional this weekend knowing it was their last weekend at home. You saw Whitney Massey behind the plate, and she tore the cover off the ball all weekend. She was on a mission.
To see her go from a role player and in and out of the lineup her first couple of years, to being the woman and really stepping up, as a coach, you don't want to see more than that. She's taken the bull by the horns. You need more players to keep doing that. They've got a lot of experience. They've been there. They're older. We want to see those seniors step in and really lead the way now as we get to the postseason.