The Challenge Begins Tonight
Jan. 22, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The challenge begins tonight for the University of Iowa softball team. Tonight marks the first official practice of the 2013 season.
"I am excited about getting started," said UI head coach Marla Looper. "I am eager to see what the kids did over the break. It was up to them to stay ready. We have two and a half weeks before we hit the field. We cannot make up five weeks (of break) in two and a half weeks, so it was up to them to get some work done."
Second semester classes opened today on the UI campus, also marking the start of the softball season. The Hawkeyes, who finished second in the Big Ten a year ago, are focused on the challenge at hand.
"My challenge to them last night at our team meeting was, `who are we?', `why are we here?' and `what do we want to do?'" said Looper, now in her third year at the helm of the program. "That is how we are writing the definition of Iowa softball. We start that tonight. I am really excited about it.
"We are writing a new legacy and a new history. We have built off the tradition and history this program has, but we cannot dwell on it nor rely on it. We are the definition of Iowa softball. What is that definition going to be? There are going to be some highs and some lows, but that final definition at the end of the year... that is them (the players) and what they want to get out of it.
"That starts tonight. That is the challenge in front of us."
Iowa opens the season Feb. 8 in Houston, Texas. The Hawkeyes face Lipscomb and UT Arlington at the Hilton Houston Plaza Classic.
One of the obvious challenges the team faces is preparing itself for its first official contest in just over two weeks. Last year, Iowa returned from winter break a week earlier and opened play a week later.
"It can be a positive," said Looper. "We had the choice as a staff to bring them back a week early before school started. The challenge with that is we are indoors a week longer.
"The majority of our team can go outside where it is warm and train. We could take a team trip south, but I prefer to be in our facilities training as a group, in our environment, to get us prepared."
Sixteen days separate the Hawkeyes and first pitch.
"It could be a positive in that we have not been stuck inside a lot," said Looper. "Two and a half weeks will fly by. The challenge is to make sure we are game speed ready. They have been on their own for five, almost six weeks due to finals. We have to regain game speed and become comfortable with each other again as a team."
Fans can get their first glimpse of the 2013 Hawkeyes one week from today. Iowa will host the ninth annual `Meet the Hawks' night Tuesday, Jan. 29, from 6:30-8 p.m. inside the new Indoor Practice Facility.