Feb. 27, 2009
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IOWA CITY – For Head Coach Gayle Blevins and the Iowa softball team, a weekend off is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The Hawkeyes are not scheduled to play a game this weekend, which will be the only time between opening day and the end of the season that Iowa will not play at least one game during the week.
Iowa is scheduled to play 57 games in 2009, with 15 of those already in the books. The Hawkeyes currently stand at 12-3 overall, with all of those games being played on the road. Iowa is scheduled to play its first 29 games away from Iowa City, and even though getting out of the Iowa winter to play in warm locations is nice, the week-to-week travel can be demanding.
“Constant traveling does take a lot out of you,” Blevins said. “We have been on the road for three weeks now, and it’s nice just to be able to sleep in your own bed and not have to worry about flight delays.”
Scheduling a “bye” week was something Blevins thought about in the past, but after talking to other Big Ten coaches, decided to implement for the 2009 season.
“Other coaches talked about giving the athletes a chance to freshen up during the busiest part of the season,” Blevins said. “I really like that idea. Our athletes will have a chance to recharge their battery and come back enthused and ready to play.”
Some Iowa players need the time off a little more than others. At least three Hawkeyes are nursing some nagging injuries, and Blevins is confident the weekend off will help speed up the recovery process.
“March is a tough month for us,” Blevins said. “We play a busy schedule over Spring Break, then open Big Ten play, as well. It will be great to get everyone healthy for that run.”
Blevins likes the timing of this year’s off-week, because it gives the team an extra week of practice before arguably the toughest tournament this season. The Hawkeyes will travel to Long Beach, CA, next weekend to compete against nationally-ranked UCLA , along with perennial NCAA Tournament teams in Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton.
“We took this week of practice to work on more of an individual level,” Blevins said. “Our hope is that by breaking some things down, we can get everyone sharper heading into next weekend. We will see some great teams out in California and we want to be at our best for every game.”
Blevins has been pleased with the progress so far this season, but feels the team still has things that need to be addressed.
“Our pitching has been solid since the beginning,” Blevins said. “Brittany (Weil) has been locked in and Amanda (Zust) has taken great strides since opening day. Our defense is learning to work together while we fill some holes due to injury. Same goes for our outfield. Once we get some consistency in our lineup, we will be firing on all cylinders. But this team has done a great job of making adjustments, both offensively and defensively. We need to continue to do the little things during the week that will make us stronger when the Big Ten schedule and postseason roll around.”
Some student-athletes will hit the road this weekend, but instead of playing softball, they are traveling back to their respective hometowns to visit family and friends. Others are catching up on studying at the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center, while others plan on relaxing in their dorm room or apartment for a day or two.
As for Blevins, no big plans are in site.
“I’m just going to catch my breath,” Blevins said. “I want to be off the road for a weekend. It will be really nice to support some of the other athletic teams that are at home this weekend. Other coaches and student-athletes do such a great job of coming out to Pearl Field during the season, and it’s always nice to support them, as well.”