A Year 1 Success

May 24, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — New coaching staff, new philosophy, no problem. University of Iowa head softball coach Marla Looper thinks her Hawkeyes exceeded expectations in 2011, and she’s excited about the prospects for her program moving forward.

“I think, overall, we did exceed some expectations,” said Looper, who guided her squad to a 27-24 overall record. “With that, though, the expectations rose throughout the year. Then, unfortunately, we didn’t end up very strong.”

Two thirds of the way through the season, the Hawkeyes were flying high. The squad won at No. 1 Michigan on April 23 to push its record to a season-best 10 games over .500 (26-16). The next day, Iowa led the Wolverines 2-0 through six and a half innings before Michigan rallied with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to claim a 3-2 victory. From there, Iowa lost eight of its final nine games.

“When you learn to get in the driver’s seat like we did, we can’t jump out,” said Looper. “We have to at least learn if we get in the back seat to scoot our way back up to the front seat.”

Looper said her team made great strides from when she took over the program prior to fall ball to the competitive season this spring.

“We did grow this year, and I’m proud of that, but the sky’s the limit,” said Looper. “We had kids that when we first got here this fall were like ‘They might get in the lineup here or there and they end up being starters.’

“They’re going to continue to grow because we only grasped the bare surface this year in teaching and next year we’ll elevate that.”

Looper’s message throughout the year was simple and to the point: be better tomorrow than you were today. If her Hawkeyes continue to buy into that statement even more team success will follow.

“We always have to get better,” said Looper. “Even if someone is 4-for-4 in a game, there is always some way to be better. There’s no way to guarantee the 4-for-4 came on perfect at-bats or perfect swings. Or if you’re a pitcher and you throw a one-hitter, you can always get better because maybe you walked two.

“I don’t think you ever stop learning, and if you challenge yourself to be better each day, then you’re going to make yourself pretty good… you’re going to give yourself an opportunity to have success.”

The Hawkeyes have a good foundation in place to build on the 2011 season and have additional success in 2012. Looper returns both starting pitchers in Chelsea Lyon and Kayla Massey to go along with the addition of incoming freshman hurler Melanie Gladden. All-Big Ten selections Liz Watkins and Katie Keim also return for their senior seasons.

“The players learning our system for a year will be vital for those returning and adding to those coming in,” said Looper. “I think they’ll be able to step up to the challenge.”