Q&A: Softball coach handles hefty expectations in year two
The Cougars headed to College Station this weekend as one of four teams competing in the season-opening Aggie Classic. The team went 3-1, with the final game on Sunday canceled due to inclement weather.
This season marks year two under head coach Kristin Vesely. In her first year, the softball team finished with a 30-25 record and reached the final of the American Athletic Conference Championship before losing to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, the team’s highest finish in the AAC.
The softball team was picked to finish second in the conference yet again. The Cougar sat down with coach Vesely to get her thoughts on the state of the team, including its pre-game rituals and an early candidate for “Most Improved Player.”
The Cougar: After having a full off-season under your belt, is there anything that you learned that you can take into your second season?
Kristin Vesely: You have to know your personnel, and you need to have defensive chemistry.
TC: After all of the work you’ve put in this off-season, do you see an early candidate for “Most Improved Player” this year?
Vesely: Mariah Garcia. She missed the fall portion of last year, and then became a regular starter around March once she got used to the speed of the game. She’s put in a lot of work this off-season and she’ll be a positive contributor to the team this year.
TC: What did the team focus on training the most in preparation for the new season?
Vesely: Fundamentals. It’s always important to have the basics perfected going into the season.
TC: You have three returning starting pitchers. Can you talk about what they mean to the team?
Vesely: We have three very talented pitchers. We prefer to have a four pitcher rotation, but we are comfortable going into this season with three because they are all physically capable of carrying the team on any given day.
TC: You’re dealing with a shorter rotation this season. Do you foresee that being an issue later as the wear-and-tear starts to set in?
Vesely: What we are going to do to combat that is focus more on our offense. We plan on using our bats to shorten these games for the starters so that we can get them out early and get our relievers in there. By doing so, we will be able to keep them fresh throughout the course of the season.
TC: In preparation for games, do you have any sort of pre-game ritual, one that maybe carried over from your playing days?
Vesely: I’m superstitious about what we wear. If there is anything that doesn’t feel right, from coaches’ wardrobes to players’ jersey color combinations, we will swap them out until it feels right. I also have to have a Diet Mountain Dew, which I refer to as my “Green Juice.”
TC: Looking at the team’s schedule for this season, is there any team that stands out as being your hardest game, whether because of a bad matchup, talent disparity, or something else?
Vesely: There’s no one team that stands out because the majority of our opponents this season have a good chance of making the NCAA tournament at the end of the season. But I know that if we do what we are supposed to do as a unit, we can beat any given team on any given day because of our talent.
TC: What did you see from your team in the lead up to opening weekend?
Vesely: I watched every swing in the cages, even though I don’t throw anymore, and I could see who was anxious, who was relaxed, and so on. However, I know that for some of these girls, it does not matter how they practice, when those lights go on, they perform.