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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Softball

Vesely not fazed by pressure from Houston’s success, instead embraces it


Head coach Kristin Vesely, entering her fourth year at the helms, has led the Cougars to three 30-win campaigns in as many seasons. | Katrina Martinez/The Cougar

Head coach Kristin Vesely, entering her fourth year at the helms, has led the Cougars to three 30-win campaigns in as many seasons. | Katrina Martinez/The Cougar

Head coach Kristin Vesely has successfully led the Cougars to three consecutive 30-win campaigns after hovering around .500 the two seasons before and has turned UH into a competitive force.

With multiple votes in preseason polls, like USA Today/NFCA Coaches and the USA Softball/ ESPN.com for example, and the win totals increasing each year, Vesely has no plans on slowing down.

Every year brings new challenges and with the team set to compete in the Houston Invitational on Friday, Vesely is prepared to start the marathon again.

Mindset for new year

Going into each season with winning on her mind, Vesely focuses a lot on managing her resources.

“We make sure that we’re using our personnel adequately and to their strengths to see how many adjustments we have to make to win more ball games,” Vesely said on her approach to new seasons.

Houston has become a nationally recognized program, reaching the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years, but getting it there was not a simple task.

“It took a lot of restructuring and getting the right kind of personnel in here,” Vesely said. “We get a lot of support from the community and our diamond club, which has really helped improve our facilities and land top recruits.”

The constant drive to improve seems to be the motto for the Cougars this season, especially after the groundwork laid by the 2019 graduating class.

“The footprint (was) laid by our senior class last year,” Vesely said. “As long as we’re continuing to get top players, we can do our best to coach and continue to be competitive and get better every year.”

With the increasing success of the program, all eyes are on Houston to continue the trend into its upcoming season, but the pressure does not faze Vesely.

“It’s not pressure; it’s more of a challenge and excitement,” Vesely said. “The girls actually set the goals for us, and we just coach according to that.”

As for the new season, the goal for the players is straightforward.

“They’ve said 40 wins, which would be one more than last year,” Vesely said. “I think with our talent level, we should be able to achieve that.”

Program Builder

Vesely’s go-getter spirit has inspired the attitude of her team.

Senior infielder Arielle James began her career with Houston as a freshman and has witnessed the program’s evolution over the course of her three years on the team. She now prepares for her final collegiate season.

“I think we’ve grown immensely,” James said. “I would say the culture of this team has become more competitive each year. We’ve gone further in the postseason each year, and we strive to get further each year.”

As for the future of the team, it continues to develop.

“You can just tell the culture is growing, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon,” James said.

Senior outfielder Lindsey Stewart feels the same way about the capabilities of the team and has her sights set on the ultimate goal.

“We’ve gone to regionals, then to the finals,” Stewart said. “This year, we’re going to take the whole thing.”

While the extensive practices, top recruits and competitive mindsets are all important aspects of making up a successful program, the component Vesely values the most is simple.

“Find the kids that want to be here, that want to be in this city, that want to be in this program,” she said. “As soon as you get those type of kids, the program is going to elevate.”

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