March 15, 2014
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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.
By JIL PRICE
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head softball coach Marla Looper has waited four years for the opportunity to make her return to Austin, Texas, to play against the Longhorns. That opportunity is here, and today she will walk through the gates of Red and Charline McCombs Field sporting a Tigerhawk on her chest.
“I’m excited about it,” Looper said. “It’s challenging as a coach to go back to your alma mater or former place of employment because you get a little bit juiced up. I spent 11 years of my career there and that job was the major stepping stone that got me here.
“It’s nice to go back and play in front of fans that I enjoyed coaching in front of before. Even though they may be in Texas orange, I know they are going to be rooting for the Hawkeyes a little as well.”
The teams are scheduled to open their three-game series at 4 p.m. (CT) today. The series continues on Sunday at 4 p.m. and concludes with a 7 p.m. contest Monday.
“I want our team to have a good showing because I think we have the ability to,” Looper said. “We match up well with Texas. It’s going to be weird being in the first base dugout facing my former team, and looking into the stands, but it will be a good start to our spring break that will lead us into conference play.”
All three games of the series will be televised on the Longhorn Network with former Texas softball greats — Cat Osterman and Megan Willis — providing color analysis for the broadcasts. Looper coached both players and is looking forward to seeing a few of her former players.
“I feel like through the years I formed some great relationships with every single one of the players at Texas,” Looper said. “Cat and Megan were battery mates, so I spent a lot of time with them in the bullpen.
“I still keep in touch with them. If we’re in the same place, we meet up and check in. I’m fortunate to have a lot of relationships like that with my former student-athletes from Texas.”
Looper says the experience and responsibilities she gained in Austin, Texas, made her transition from an assistant coach to a head coach much easier. Eighteenth-year UT head coach Connie Clark, who was also Looper’s college pitching coach at Florida State, gave her the opportunity to learn and develop into the coach she is today.
“I had a lot of responsibility budget-wise and with the team at Texas, and I loved being an assistant. I loved the interaction I had with student-athletes there,” Looper said. “After a while I realized I needed to continue to grow. After spending 11 years in a phenomenal program, I needed a different challenge.
“I didn’t want to have any job just to have the head coaching title; I wanted the opportunity to go to a program that had been successful. I wanted an opportunity to continue that success, and help a team play at the highest level.”
The Hawkeye softball team has been on the rise since Looper took over the program in 2010. Iowa posted 27 wins in Looper’s first year in 2011 before adding another 27 wins in her second season. In 2013, the Hawkeyes posted 30 victories, the highest win total since 2009 when the squad went 42-19, and defeated six ranked foes. Looper, now in her fourth season, owns a career coaching record of 88-84 (.512) and is 12 wins from earning her No. 100 as a head coach.