B1G Opportunity Awaits at B1G Tourney

May 8, 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 — For the first time since 2008, the Big Ten Softball Tournament — discontinued for four years — is back. The excitement surrounding the University of Iowa softball team is palpable as it starts postseason action.

“It is a great opportunity,” said UI head coach Marla Looper. “It signifies the start of the postseason. The championship environment is fun for our student-athletes.”

Iowa faces Ohio State in first-round action Thursday. The ninth-seeded Hawkeyes and the eighth-seeded Buckeyes will meet at 2 p.m. (CT) in the second game of the day. The tournament, hosted by Nebraska, is a single-elimination format. All games will be played at Bowlin Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

The Hawkeyes have a history of success in the league tournament, claiming two Big Ten Tournament titles (2001, 2003) and winning 21 games in the event all-time — the second most of any team.

“Thursday marks the day that postseason officially begins, and with the aspirations of this senior class and our entire team, we are bound to make this season one to remember.”
— Senior Johnnie Dowling

Iowa assistant coach Stacy May-Johnson played in four conference tournaments. The 2011 USA Softball Female Athlete of the Year helped the Hawkeyes raise the tournament trophy in 2003, and was twice named to the all-tournament team.

“I am really glad the tournament is back,” said May-Johnson. “The atmosphere is top notch, and has a postseason feel. There are a number of teams that will be in the NCAA Tournament regardless of their finish in the conference tournament, and some teams still fighting for that bid, and that is what makes it really special. You see a really high level of play from top to bottom. You see everybody’s best, and I like that element and the atmosphere.”

The Hawkeyes have won five-straight games entering the tournament, and six of their last eight overall. The five-game winning streak matches Iowa’s longest of the season. The Hawkeyes swept Purdue last weekend in West Lafayette, Ind., after downing Iowa State in Iowa City on May 1, 8-3.

Iowa finished the regular season at 30-23. The 30 victories mark the most for the program since finishing 42-16 in 2009. The Hawkeyes still have unfinished business: a championship.

“It is a new season,” said Looper. “It is a clean slate and fresh start. We have to take it one game at a time.

“After the sweep of Purdue in the team huddle, I said you guys enjoy the sweep for a few more hours, but I am done with it and ready for the Big Ten Tournament. We started the season talking about winning championships. This is our opportunity.”

For Johnnie Dowling and the senior class, it is time to leave their mark.

“It is my first tournament, and I cannot wait,” said Dowling. “The Big Ten Conference is very competitive, and when you get all the teams in town for a tournament, the intensity of play will be at its highest.

“Our goal is to go in fighting to become champions, just like every other team. It is a chance to prove what our team is made of before (NCAA) regionals begin.

“Thursday marks the day that postseason officially begins, and with the aspirations of this senior class and our entire team, we are bound to make this season one to remember.”