Feb. 3, 2014
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa head softball coach Marla Looper equates senior Kayla Massey's return to that of a football team welcoming back its starting quarterback. The experience-factor is unparalleled.
"Having any returnee in the circle is vital," said Looper, who is in her fourth season as Iowa's head coach. "The person that runs the engine, it's nice to have that continuity."
Since stepping onto campus in 2011, Massey has shared the role of Hawkeye ace. She has averaged 14.6 wins, 184 innings and 112 strikeouts in her first three seasons.
"I want to have the best year I have ever had and go out with a bang. I don't want to leave any regrets or what-ifs behind. I want to win, that's my main goal. I want to get to the postseason any way I can."
UI senior Kayla Massey
As a freshman, Massey went 12-12 with a 3.22 ERA with 16 complete games and three shutouts. She followed it up with a 15-11 record and a 2.04 ERA as a sophomore. Massey tossed 24 complete games and seven shutouts en route to first-team All-Big Ten honors.
In 2013, Massey won a career-best 17 games, was named the Big Ten All-Defensive Team pitcher and won four games against ranked foes in the first three months of the season. After starting 12-7 with a 1.93 ERA over her first 21 appearances, she went 5-6 down the stretch and finished with a 3.09 ERA.
"She fell off a little bit at the end of last year," said Looper. "(This year) she wants to start strong and finish stronger than anytime she has been here."
Confidence has never been an issue for Massey, but Looper says the sense of urgency she has seen from the right-hander since practice began Jan. 13 has been fun to see.
"She has the urgency of let's get the job done, and let's get the job done now," said Looper.
That attitude was present for Massey since the 2013 season ended and Iowa was on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament. She spent the offseason working on her conditioning to prepare for the rigors of the 53-game regular season schedule.
"I worked out harder and am in better shape," said Massey. "I'll be able to go the distance rather than just a portion of it this season."
Massey has gone the distance 65 times in her Hawkeye career -- ranking eighth all-time in program history in complete games. She also sits just outside of the top-10 in the Iowa record books with 44 victories and 102 appearances.
None of those statistics matter to Massey. Her No. 1 objective is to be playing the third weekend in May in the NCAA Regionals -- a feat that has evaded the Iowa program since 2009.
"I want to have the best year I have ever had and go out with a bang," she said. "I don't want to leave any regrets or what-ifs behind. I want to win, that's my main goal. I want to get to the postseason any way I can."
The Hawkeyes open the 2014 season in Columbia, S.C., facing UNC Greensboro and South Carolina on Feb. 7, Presbyterian on Feb. 8, and Ohio on Feb. 9.