Memphis Softball Excited to Open 2014 Season
Jan. 15, 2014
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The University of Memphis women’s softball began spring practices Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the 2014 season. The Tigers open the season on Feb. 7 against Middle Tennessee, just 23 short days away.
The entire team is looking forward to making this season special.
“There’s always excitement when you begin a new season,” Memphis head coach Natalie Poole said. “It is a new year, a fresh start and an opportunity to build the season into what you want it to be.”
Poole enters her third season as head coach at Memphis. After going 20-37 in 2012, the Tigers finished 2013 with a 24-36 mark. Poole, along with returning associate head coach Andy Lott and assistant coach Roya St. Clair, are challenging the 2014 Tigers to aim for loftier goals, and to improve the team’s victory total for a second consecutive season.
“We need to accomplish more than we have accomplished up to this point,” Poole said. “We need to make positive strides to get towards the top of the conference. We are setting our sights on that, and every day we are working towards that goal.”
Experience at key positions will go a long way in helping Memphis make that push. The top two pitchers from last season, Ellen Roberts and Jordan Richwood, both return. In total, the 2014 squad welcomes back 14 letterwinners and seven starters from last year’s team.
“We worked hard in the fall and in the offseason,” Roberts said. “We have added some key hitters to our lineup and some extra depth to our pitching staff. We are looking forward to a competitive year.”
The returning players will be pushed for playing time by seven talented newcomers. The freshman group consists of three infielders, two pitchers, two outfielders and one catcher.
The added competition for playing time this season has helped to develop team chemistry.
“Our returners have done a fantastic job of bringing in and welcoming the new players. There is a great chemistry right now within our team,” Poole said.
Senior catcher Amber Lindahl, one of the team leaders this season along with the four other seniors (Kelly Braman, Libby Goranson, Ijiah Hargrove and Roberts), has already seen major improvements from the new players in just a few months together.
“They are all working in really nicely,” Lindahl said of the newcomers. “As they get more comfortable with the team and continue to gain confidence, they will all be big assets for us.”
The entire squad has participated in several team activities during the offseason to help build that team dynamic. During the fall and winter, the entire team read “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon.
“The book talks about being positive and having everyone fight for the same things and be a part of the same vision,” Poole said.
With the lessons from that book in mind, the team developed their season goals, the “6 P’s,” at the first team meeting earlier this week.
“These are some characteristics that we want our team to live by. Goals that will keep us driven on the field,” Lindahl said.
“The 6 P’s define our vision. The goals that will help us accomplish our vision,” Poole added.
The 6 P’s, the mantra for the 2014 team, are as follows:
- “Potter”: The final characteristic reflects the major theme of “self-sacrifice” depicted in the “Harry Potter” series, a favorite of many of the players on the team.
Playing up to these standards will be important as the team will encounter several new challenges in 2014. Memphis moves into a new home, the American Athletic Conference, starting this season. The eight-team league features two teams from Conference USA (Houston and UCF), but also introduces Memphis to five new conference opponents (Louisville, Rutgers, Temple, UConn, USF). Three of those teams (Houston, Louisville and USF) made the NCAA Tournament last season.
“It’s exciting. We haven’t played some of the teams we are going to see this year,” Roberts said of being in a new conference. “It will be a good challenge for us. I am excited to see what we can come up with.”
Before conference play begins, Memphis starts the season with a challenging and exciting non-conference schedule. The Tigers begin the year in Troy, Ala. at the Troy Subway Invitational (Feb. 7-9), then travel to Lafayette, La. the following weekend for the Ragin’ Cajun Invitational (Feb. 14-16).
The Tigers then host the seventh annual Blues City Classic in Southaven, Miss. from Feb. 21-23. Memphis travels to Gulfport, Miss. for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic Tournament (Feb. 28-Mar. 2), before concluding non-conference tournament play in DeLand, Fla. at the Stetson Classic (Mar. 7-9).
Memphis plays 20 home games at Tiger Softball Complex in 2014, after playing 18 home games a season ago. This season’s schedule was designed to get the team some new experiences but also to provide challenging competition. The Tigers will play 16 games against teams that competed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
“It’s definitely exciting to face new competition,” Poole said of this year’s schedule. “I think we have great balance in our schedule. It will be challenging, but I feel like we have a team that can meet that challenge.”
The 2014 Memphis Tigers open the season against Middle Tennessee on Feb. 7 at 1:00 p.m. in Troy, Ala.