Q&A with head softball coach Kyla Holas
With the preseason coming to an end and the prospects of a new season gleaming in the future, head softball coach Kyla Holas takes five minutes between rearranging the coming game’s location and meeting with recruits to sit down with The Daily Cougar and explain the impact the Cougar softball team will have on the American Athletic Conference.
The Daily Cougar: You guys are finishing up preseason this week. How do you feel everything has gone so far?
Kyla Holas: We did a few things different this fall. We broke our practice schedule up and started later, so we got to spend more individual time with them. We were able to see a lot of improvement. We also had a lot of working parts that were different from last season. We had a lot of transfers and some newcomers. So we are definitely very pleased with where we are at right now.
TDC: How do you feel, based on your performance in the preseason, that softball season is going to go?
KH: That’s one of those things you can never really tell. You don’t know who might get injured or hurt or who even gets it over the Christmas break or not. I think our biggest focus is competing in the American. Stepping into a new conference, we really want to make sure we make a good first impression and that we play the game for this type of conference. Each conference has their niche. In Conference USA, we worked really hard to get it to be one of the top conferences. We were putting in four or five teams into the postseason. It was known for its pitching and offense. So we are going to have to figure out this new conference. That’s where our approach has been — learning these teams and being able to compete in the new environments and in the new conditions.
TDC: What specifically are some of the team’s strengths this season?
KH: Overall, it’s athleticism. We really just have kids who can do anything. They are very skilled in their speed. I just feel like we are so much more balanced. We don’t have the one who only hits or only plays defense or is limited in what position she plays. I’m hoping that, with the lesser numbers on our roster this season, that that athleticism really pays off and that we are able to do some things athletically that we haven’t been able to do.
TDC: Who are going to be some of your key players?
KH: I think (utility sophomore) Selena Hernandez is really going to have a great year. She’s a newcomer for us. She’s done some really great things. I am really excited about some of the changes. I think (junior) Tiffani McKnight in the outfield has done a really great job. And as far as a returner who didn’t get a lot of playing time, (redshirt junior outfielder) Sydney Gerbracht has been having a really great fall and has been very focused. She has been working very hard to get in that lineup, and she has definitely earned her spot. Other than that, our key returners are obviously (sophomore outfielder) Katie St. Pierre and (sophomore center) Haley and (senior outfielder) Diedre Outon. I’m also really hoping our pitching staff in general — we are less in numbers, so they are going to get a lot more opportunity to do some of things we have been working on this fall. I am hoping that, as a staff, our numbers are going to continue to improve.
TDC: Going into this brand new conference with a highly athletic team, what are some of the things you hope to accomplish in this first AAC season?
KH: Obviously, we want to win conference. We always set that one first for a reason, and postseason is second. Even more than that this year, we have always had the Women’s College World Series as something that we’ve wanted, but it’s something we are really locked into this year. We are trying this year to approach it in a completely different way. Instead of just a concept that was out there, we have made it more into something that was a real, believable option for us if we did the things that we needed to do. The series is probably more of a focus now than it has ever been. It is something that has always been said, but we have really changed our focus to make it something that will happen for us.