New Mindset, Equals New Results

March 6, 2013

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 — The University of Iowa softball team is 14-5 overall and off to the program’s best start since the 2009 season. The Hawkeyes’ success can be attributed to a new mindset instilled by third-year head coach Marla Looper and her coaching staff.

“It is like a boxing match,” said Looper. “You learn to take a blow. You take a right-left punch, and then you punch back. That is exactly how the game is, but if you can punch more often, your opponent is going to struggle.

“That is no different than us being the aggressor and attacking early, and often. If you attack early, you get people back on their heels. In a boxing match, you can generally tell who is going to win that match by how it starts. You have to make a statement when you step on the field.”

Iowa made a statement on the field last weekend in Fullerton, Calif. — with its aggressive mindset.

The Hawkeyes, winners of five straight overall, finished with a perfect 4-0 mark in the Easton Invitational on the campus of Cal State Fullerton. Iowa defeated two top-25 opponents — No. 15 Stanford (7-6) and No. 24 Oregon State (9-3) — and Cal State Fullerton (7-0) and CSU Bakersfield (5-3).

The Cardinal, winners of 10-of-11 entering the contest, punched first in the opener, scoring the game’s first runs. The Hawkeyes punched back in a big way, using a six-run second to take control of the game. The Beavers also landed the game’s first punch, but Iowa responded again, scoring two runs in the fourth and sixth, and five in the seventh, to knock out Oregon State and its 12-game win streak.

The Hawkeyes attacked promptly in victories over Fullerton and Bakersfield, delivering early-inning knockouts. Iowa scored seven runs in the first two frames against the Titans, while junior Kayla Massey tossed a one-hitter to defeat Fullerton. The Hawkeyes scored four runs in the second against the Roadrunners, and used a solid outing from senior Chelsea Lyon to down Bakersfield.

Looper preached the aggressive approach during her first two seasons. Now, in year three, the team is grasping the mindset and the results are showing.

“I had some feedback from people that watched us the last few weeks, versus the last few years, and they said the demeanor of the team stepping on the field, is completely different than any team they have seen here; they act like the mean business,” said Looper. “That is part of being the aggressor and being ready to compete. It helps us be the aggressor when we walk in with that mentality. The kids have the confidence now, and they know they can do it, so it makes it easier.”

The aggressive mindset is a major component of the culture being instilled in Iowa City.

“It is part of the mentality and culture we are trying to instill in the players,” said Looper. “This year, we are stepping onto the field like we are going to win. That is part of the culture in our program that is shifting in that direction. That is what is making it so fun right now.

“It is starting to make sense for the players, and we are seeing the results. We have done it at times, but did not see the results. Now, we are seeing the results, and that builds confidence. Confidence breeds confidence.”

Iowa continues action this weekend in College Park, Md., in the Miken Invitational hosted by Maryland. The Hawkeyes will face St. John’s (8 a.m. CT) and Maryland (10 a.m.) on Saturday, before facing Radford (8 a.m.) and Ohio State (10 a.m.) on Sunday to conclude action.