Feb. 6, 2009
- 2009 Softball Season Ticket Application
- Iowa and the Big Ten Network
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
- Iowa Softball wallpaper
- Preseason USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Poll
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It might come as a surprise that University of Iowa catcher Liz Watkins likes to hunt deer, turkey and elk. Or that infielder Katie Brown would love to be an elementary school principal.
But it isn’t stunning news that expectations are high for the Hawkeye softball program which opened the season with an 8-0 shutout of Stephen F. Austin on Friday afternoon in Austin, Texas.
Before Hall of Fame head coach Gayle Blevins officially kicked off her 22nd season with the Hawkeyes, she spoke to more than 200 fans who gathered Tuesday, Feb. 3, on the second floor of Kinnick Stadium’s Brechler Press Box for the annual Meet the Hawks Night.
“We always try to tell people how special it is to be a Hawkeye,” Blevins told the capacity crowd. “When they can walk in and have trouble finding a seat, that’s a good sign. So just know that we have great expectations for our team and you’re going to be a big part of that with us. Be with us every step of the way, because we’re going to do our best to represent you the way you would like to see us represent you.”
Blevins met with the media 30 minutes before Meet the Hawks Night commenced. The gathering of fans and family were treated to buffet-style snacks consisting of fruit, vegetables, cheese and sliced meat and crackers. After opening comments from the coaching staff, the UI players were paired and introduced.
“I’m so proud to be a Hawkeye,” assistant coach Diane Stephenson said. “I love everything about the administration and the support that we get. The best thing is being back with Gayle Blevins. Not many people get a chance to work with her once and I’m so proud that this is my second time around.”
Stephenson, the Hawkeye hitting coach and catcher’s coach, not only played for Blevins at Indiana University, but was an assistant coach under her for five seasons (1983-87).
Pitching coach Shane Bouman is in his second season at the UI after spending six seasons as head coach at South Dakota State. He explained how the Hawkeye program has a strong family theme that blankets over into his personal life.
“I have a 9-year old daughter who has been taken under the wings by all these girls,” Bouman said. “You see a huge family out here and you see a bunch of kids who have kind of been my daughters taking care of me when I’m not with my own daughter.”
“We always try to tell people how special it is to be a Hawkeye. When they can walk in and have trouble finding a seat, that’s a good sign. So just know that we have great expectations for our team and you’re going to be a big part of that with us. Be with us every step of the way, because we’re going to do our best to represent you the way you would like to see us represent you.”
UI head coach
One of the crowd favorites was the introduction of players and the revelation of a little-known fact about each Hawkeye student-athlete. Callie Adreon works with children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. Heidi Daumen taught herself to play the guitar. Taylor Leichsenring has two cats named Max and Mille (and Jenny Schuelke is allergic to them). Lindsey Major can play 12 instruments. Quinn Morelock has no sense of smell. Erin Riemersma is a Chicago White Sox baseball fan and Katie Keim loves to white-water raft.
Riemersma spoke on behalf of the team and emphasized the recurring themes of super Hawkeye fan support as well as the projection of a successful season on the diamond.
“We’re so appreciative of our fans,” Riemersma said. “The fact that so many of you are here really means a lot to us. I love being a student-athlete on this campus and wherever I end up, I will always be proud to say that I’m a Hawkeye. We share a common belief that this program can — and will — achieve greatness this season.
“Standing before you are 18 girls with 18 completely different personalities and I wouldn’t have it any other way. All 18 of these girls are ready to rock this season and nothing will be holding us back. Whatever happens, this is a special group of girls who deserve a very rewarding, memorable season.”
This weekend’s Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational opens a season that includes the first 29 UI games away from home. The date March 22 is circled on nearly every UI player and coach’s calendar, because that is the home-opener at refurbished Pearl Field.
“We won’t be home until March 22,” Blevins said. “In this part of the country, if you’re going to be a top softball program, you have to be able to take the pony on the road and we’re taking our show on the road. A lot of you will embrace this group once they come to Pearl Field.”
“We know when we get back to Pearl Field, our biggest supporters will be waiting there patiently and that means more to us than you’ll ever know,” Riemersma said. “We can’t wait to see everyone at Pearl Field.”
The Hawkeyes return seven starters, many of them decorated with awards and honors. Brown (first team designated player), Colleen McGlaughlin (second team utility), Brittany Weil (second team pitcher) and Morelock (third team outfield) were all named to an all-Big Ten team following Iowa’s 42-20 season a year ago. Riemersma was first-team all-Big Ten in 2007. Iowa’s schedule is as strong as any in the nation.
“This is by far the toughest schedule we’ve ever had since I’ve been at the University of Iowa,” Blevins said. “I’m excited about the fact those tests will occur early and often and I feel very confident our team is going to be ready for that.”
The Hawkeyes play 10 games against teams that received votes in the NCAA Division I preseason poll and six games against teams currently rated in the top 10. Big Ten opponents Michigan and Northwestern are ranked No. 8 and No. 9, respectively. Iowa is among “other teams receiving votes” — something that momentarily disappointed several Hawkeyes, but the veteran coach was quick to use the polls as motivation.
“It’s not where we’re at right now, it’s that steady climb and that’s what’s so very important,” Blevins said. “We have plenty of time to put ourselves in a position that we want to be in. That’s exciting. The key will be to take advantage of the many, many tough competitions we’re going to have in the early tournaments.”
Meet the Hawks Night concluded with the playing of the 2008 season highlight video. Optimism was high.
As the crowd exited into the brisk, dark Iowa evening, more than a few of the fans were no doubt left with one final question.
Why exactly is it so hard for Sam Heinzman to cook rice or macaroni?