Sep 5, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The focus of the University of Iowa softball team is the 2014 regular season. Through individual practices, team practices, lifting work outs, and serving in the community, the Hawkeyes are using the fall to become a unit and add to their skill sets.
"We need to form as a team and not wait until January," said UI head coach Marla Looper. "If we wait until January, we're already half a year behind. That's something that we've talked about since day one; forming as a team, building cohesiveness with the four freshmen coming in and the returners finding a little bit of camaraderie and comfort.
"It's going to be challenging because we graduated five and we're bringing in four. If you just lose one person each year, the dynamic is different. We're seeing the returners reach out to the newcomers and it starts there. It's kind of fun to see the new with the old, the mixture, and excitement that's around."
The Hawkeyes have a smaller roster this season, trimming from 23 players a year ago to 17 for the 2014 season. With fewer players, the team will be challenged to expand their skill sets to the point where they can play multiple positions on the diamond comfortably come spring.
"(We will have some) people in new positions that they haven't possibly ever played before or in positions they haven't done in a while," Looper said. "We're a little bit shorter staffed than we were last year.
"That will be a challenge for this fall and the offseason -- to get people comfortable in multiple positions. Not just, 'I could do it if you threw me out there in a pinch,' but comfortable enough that we could start them in any spot and not hurt the team with the outcome."
The unity of the team and its preparations will be put to the test by a series of fall contests beginning in late September, all of which will be played at Pearl Field. Fall action begins with the All Iowa Classic on Sept. 28-29. The Hawkeyes will host four in-state foes including Drake, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and Upper Iowa.
Play continues with a game against Marshalltown Community College on Oct. 4 and concludes with a pair of contests against Kansas and Kirkwood Community College on Oct. 12.
"(We get to see) what they've done on their own over the summer and how we can build from that," Looper said. "The last thing we want to do is to go backwards to where we were a year ago, two years ago, or three years ago. We finished May with a nasty taste in our mouth, and we want to see what they did over the summer to not have that happen again this season."