The Dugout: Hoffman Says Farewell

Welcome to The Dugout. Iowa Softball’s blog will reach out to fans and provide them with the opportunity to connect with the student-athletes, coaches and staff who work hard every day to make the Hawkeye softball program a success. The Dugout aims to deliver unique insight into the lives of the Iowa Softball team. Each week, The Dugout will feature a different softball student-athlete.

Dear Iowa,
You had me at “Hello”. As your sweet summer child, I was naïve and cautious as a freshman but I knew it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Jon Snow couldn’t compare for I truly knew nothing about what college would have in store for me. College can be intimidating and an incredible amount of pressure is put on students. It took a couple years before I realized that life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death. Iowa, you taught me how to eat. I apologize for learning this lesson late, but it wasn’t an easy concept for me to grasp. I hope others can learn from what I have to say because the sport of softball is a failing sport. The best players fail most of the time. Initially, I wanted success and I wanted it immediately. Life, like softball, is a banquet because it gives you endless opportunities. You can start eating and living when you realize that fear is what holds you back. Let it go and just keep swimming. When I finally accepted that the chances were that I would fail, this sport became easier and the pressure disappeared. Playing at this school has made me into the strong and confident woman I am today.

Iowa. Oh Capitan, my Capitan. Our fearful trip is done. You were the one to teach me that life isn’t always fair. That sometimes the end of the game doesn’t end like the movies. You don’t always get to be the hero and hit that walk off homerun. If you taught me anything it was humility. You also taught me that on some rare occasions that you do get to be the hero but only because you believed in yourself and acted on those opportunities. You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right. Through you, Iowa, I learned that I could go the distance. I came into college as a mouse, and now I am the lion. There was no doubt in my mind that when I got up to bat I was going to get a hit, and now there’s no doubt in my mind that I will succeed in anything I put my mind to. I want to thank you for preparing me for the real world. A world, that just like in softball, that isn’t always fair, where you won’t always be the hero, but will always give the opportunity to be great.

I’ve heard many people comment about have regrets during their collegiate career. They say, “I coulda been a contender”. Going into my last year, I honestly had the fear of not being good enough for you, Iowa. I didn’t want to shame the women before me or the ones that will come after me. I know that I left it all on the field and gave my all for you because you gave your all for me. I’ll always wish I hadn’t swung at a certain pitch or had thrown more girls out, but I won’t worry about it. What’s in the past is in the past, and you can’t sweat the small stuff because it’s all small stuff. Iowa, you allowed me to go to infinity and beyond. Even in a sport of failure, my accomplishments and my teammates’ accomplishments shine through.

To my friends and teammates, fear not. I’ll be back. You’ll see me in the stands cheering for you as you cheered for me. To our fans, thank you. Even in the worst times you were there to cheer us on. Your never-ending support made each sprint, each monotonous wax on wax off-like drill, and each practice worth it. Every time I failed I felt like a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her. Iowa, you never failed to love me back and pick up my pieces.

I know there’s no crying in softball, but I know as I reminisce on my four years here at Iowa I won’t be able to hold back the tears. I’ll cry not for the regrets but for the bittersweet memories that I treasure so much. Today I am the luckiest woman on the face of the earth. I will lace up my shoes for the last time, have my last at bat, and cheer for the last time with my teammates. I am lucky because my life will continue on to hopefully great things, but I am also lucky because I was blessed to have been able to attend a great school and play with great teammates. You have prepared me and my fellow teammates for the future, and where we’re going we don’t need roads. So Iowa, I love you. And if my love could grow wings I’d be soaring in flight. “Stay gold, PonyBoy” and go Hawks!

With love,
Your sweet summer child, #55

#55 Holly Hoffman
Senior, catcher

May 6, 2016

Dear Softball,

How did the dream become the reality? You weren’t my first love; but over the years my love grew, and soon enough my love for you became an important part of my life. Now, as my softball career is close to its final days I reflect upon the nostalgic moments and memories you gave me over my four years as a Hawkeye. It is time to say thank you. I am grateful to you and the many people who made it all happen.

I have attempted to take mental pictures of important moments of my senior year. Everyone says the time flies; and before you know it you are eating your final pre-game meal, lacing up your cleats and sprinting out to center field for the Star Spangled Banner for the final time. Yes, time did fly. And yes, my senior season is just about over, but the journey I started as a Hawkeye is not. Here the journey continues and a new chapter is just beginning. I know I will get the opportunity to use everything that Iowa Softball has taught me, and I will put it all to good use each and every day.

This past year I have learned what I now consider to be one of the greatest pieces of advice I have heard thus far in my life. I have learned that everyday people erroneously define themselves as what they do, rather than defining themselves as who they are because of what they do. For when we succeed in our sport it is perceived as a blessing because people will compliment you and even sing your praise. And then there are the times when you strike out, or bobble that ball. No one needs to call that out, because that voice inside your head is loud and clear – you blew it. It’s the praise we receive that caused me and most young athletes to believe that our performance in our sport can escalate our value and worth as a person. But everyone knows softball is a game of failure, where the best hitters fail 7 out of the 10 opportunities given. Neither the home run nor the bobbled ball are who I am – but I am a better person for the character that I developed from being part of a team of sisters, celebrating our wins together, and persevering through times of failure knowing that each and every one of them had my back, and they knew I had theirs. That’s who I am, a teammate, a friend, a senior about to start a new chapter.

What this university and program have given to me cannot be matched with just a simple “thank you”.

To the community: You deserve so much more than what I have been able to give in my four years here. My greatest wish is that I have been able to be an adequate role model to your daughter. I hope I inspired her to continue playing the game we both love for the right reasons.

To my coaches, past and present: I have been fortunate enough to be coached by five coaches during my career here at Iowa. There is one consistent theme between all five. You care about us growing as women, not just as players. I entered the program as an immature teenager, and I am moving forward as a young woman who I admire and respect.

To my teammates: I wouldn’t be where I am today without you by my side almost every day. Thank you for pushing me to be my best self. Thank you for picking me up when I made a mistake. Thank you for holding me accountable and believing that I can do better. Whether we win or lose we are a family. It’s not easy to find a good group of friends. I have been extremely lucky and fortunate enough to be alongside a unique group of ladies who have stuck with me through thick and thin. I will never find a more perfect group of individuals. You will always be family.

To my parents: There are not enough words to describe how thankful I am to the both of you. Thank you for the endless amounts of love, even when I don’t deserve it. Thank you for withstanding the 15 degree wind chills and the pouring rain just to watch me play. Thank you for picking up the phone at midnight to hear me rant and cry about life. Thank you for giving me perspective when I am feeling low. Thank you for keeping me humble. Thank you for the “I love you” texts I receive throughout the day, even when I don’t respond. Thank you for giving me the life every child deserves. Somehow you have never left my side throughout these four years, even though you are 2,000 miles away.

And so I close trying to grasp the concept that my college career is nearly over. With the last series of Big Ten Conference play upon us, I can’t help but reflect on how softball has helped me evolve as a player and a person. I don’t think I will be able to fully reminisce on the moments of my career until it’s finally over. But I guess in life everything that is good must eventually come to an end.

I am so proud to have been given the privilege to be a student-athlete at the University of Iowa. This program has given me the confidence to face any unlucky soul who dares to stand in the way of me and my realizing my dreams. #Makeithappen – and I promise you I will, thanks to all of you.

Thank you Iowa.

Love, #2 Erin Erickson
Senior, outfield

April 28, 2016

There is a word that I recently came across while combing through Jon Koenig’s video series from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: “zenosyne” or the sense that time keeps moving faster and faster. For the majority of our lives, we drift unaware through the current of time, forgetting that we possess a perpetual momentum, refusing stasis, always traveling forward.

My time as a student-athlete at the University of Iowa passed this way. Being a senior was only felt vicariously, as something that happened to other people. Then suddenly halfway through a season of lasts, I was leaning against the dugout fence at Indiana, looking out into the field before I walked out into the on deck circle. Chip high-fived me and said, “Let’s go, Eight” and all of a sudden I realized that someday no one will ever call me that again. Someday, I wouldn’t be number eight.

After the game, I remember thinking about how trivial it was to be upset about something like that. But then I came to realize that eight isn’t just a number. Eight is a story. Eight belongs to the women who came before me and the women who will come after me. It reminds me that I belong to something bigger than myself. My jersey doesn’t have “Repole” on the back because it was never supposed to be about me, it was meant to be about us, about Iowa and about what we stood for as a whole rather than a conglomeration of individuals.

I cannot tell you about championships won; my collegiate career was not a series of consistent outstanding performances. But I can tell you what it feels like to hit a homerun, something that our sport has come to recognize as the ultimate achievement. By an illusion that stems from the collision of timing and pitch selection, the balls appears to be thrown in slow motion and you know even before you swing that you’re going to be rounding first base.

I cannot tell you about accolades; I was never an All-Big Ten award winner. But I can tell you about the smack of a ball against a worn pocket of leather as the afternoon sun beats on the back of your neck and the sky is an unnamable shade of blue and twenty of your closest friends are beside you, moving to the exact same rhythm.

Here is the point of everything I am trying to say: there have been no small moments during my four years at Iowa. Everything has been a big moment. Are there things I would have done differently? Absolutely. I would have trusted my abilities more. I would have framed each failure as an opportunity to learn and grow instead of using it to fuel a negative, self-deprecating fire. I would have made more of an effort to stop and rejoice in the blessings that were so abundant around me. I would have savored every moment that I had the privilege of slipping an Iowa jersey over my head.

Playing collegiate softball at this university was my dream. I was given the opportunity to pursue it and I hope I have done right by it. What else is there to say? I have loved this game, this cruel and beautiful game, for half of my life and someday very soon, it will slip into the past tense for me. As Jon Koenig so eloquently puts it, “Life is short. And life is long. But not in that order.”

A simple “thank you” for the incredible opportunity I have been given to play at this university is inadequate regardless of the pretty words I use to convey it. I am so proud of the human being and the athlete I have become over these past four years. To put it simply, my experience as a student-athlete at the University of Iowa has given me the gift of becoming and I cannot begin to express my gratitude for this sport, this university, my coaches, my teammates and this program for shaping and guiding that journey.

With the last two series of Big Ten Conference play and graduation approaching, softball is closer to becoming something I did, instead of something I do. It is the bottom of seventh inning for me. My jersey is about to be taken off the hanger in my locker for the last time. The field crew is waiting to sweep away my cleat prints. The lights on Pearl field are about to be permanently dimmed. However, my love for my teammates, my coaches and this University will always be kept in present tense.

#8 Whitney Repole
Senior, Outfield

April 22, 2016

As I’m writing this I think I’m still slightly in denial about the nearness of graduation. Yet with every day that passes, every game that we suit up for, every friend and parent that asks me what my future plans are, it all becomes more tangible. I find myself becoming nostalgic even before it’s over.

Everyone says that it goes by fast. I’ve been guilty of asserting the same thing. But the more I’ve really thought about it, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think claiming that it’s gone by fast is simply a product of how I’ve been thinking about it. Four years is a long time, and I have a tendency to remember the highlight reel and not truly ruminate on all the details.

But these have been four of the greatest years of my life. They have fundamentally changed the person that I am and that’s not because of a few instances in time. That’s the product of every singe moment over the last four years-the good and the bad- compounding into something amazing. I think my time at the University of Iowa deserves more than a highlight reel. When I truly sit back and try to reflect on these four years and I think about every challenge, every endeavor, every relationship that’s either build me up or broken me down, it becomes clear that my time here has been substantial.

The 2012 version of myself is completely outdated, and I can only begin to explain how those changes have manifested themselves. I’ve become more cognizant of the time and energy that other people donate to me on a daily basis. I’ve become more empathetic. I can see the bigger picture. And in a strange turn of events, as I’ve aged I’ve become less cynical.

That’s only the beginning, and I’m probably too close to myself to ever be able to list all the ways in which I’ve grown, but I am in no way disillusioned about who to thank for guiding me, teaching me, bearing with me, and supporting me to allow myself to become the person that I am today.

Thank you to every single person that has touched my life in the past four years. Thank you to my professors, my classmates, the extensive network of academic support I’ve received, the coaches, the rotating staff of trainers and managers, the fans and everybody in the athletic department who has had a hand in making my softball career a reality.

Thank you to all my co-workers, you guys have been amazing to me (and I am honored to call many of you my friends now). And to my long-time friends that continue to support me from hundreds of miles away. To my teammates, you guys are foundation. You have been steadfast supporters of me both on and off the field, and I can’t even begin to imagine where I would be right now without your unconditional love. To my extended family, thank you for all the time you’ve been able to give to me. And lastly, a line of gratitude to my siblings and parents: you are the definition of endless support and there are not enough words to describe how your influence has changed the trajectory of my life.

To everybody who has been a part of these four years, thank you.

Haley Hansel
Senior, Outfield

April 15, 2016

My softball career has been a long and convoluted one. I still remember getting ready for my very first t-ball game. It was summer of 1998 in hot and sunny Carlsbad, New Mexico. I remember sitting at my mom’s vanity, eating Cheetos as she braided my hair. I remember getting yelled at for getting cheese powder on my clean uniform. Also, I remember looking at the corner of her bedroom where she kept her old high school and college softball photos and awards, and wondering what it would be like to be a part of something so awesome. I wondered what it would be like to have pictures and trophies of my own and be able to look back at the amazing memories the way she did. If you had told me then that I would end up graduating from the University of Iowa and playing for the Iowa Hawkeyes, I would have thought you were insane. Eighteen years, dozens of teams, thousands of games, and three different colleges later, here we are.

While I do not regret the way I ended up here at Iowa, I do wish that I had more time to spend here with my team. These girls are amazing. We’ve had our good games and bad games, but looking back, none of that will matter to me. I’ll probably forget most of the games, the homeruns, and the strikeouts (except for one certain one during Spring Break last year). However, I will never forget the laughs I had with the team. I’ll never forget our team hangouts, or our movie nights. I’ll never forget our bus conversations or our iconic animal masks. I’ll never forget our locker room dance sessions or all of the hilariously embarrassing photos and videos of each other that inevitably end up in our Facebook group message. I love softball and I will miss it dearly, but what really made the experience an unforgettable one are the incredible teammates I have had the honor of playing with. My team is like family, and I would have never known they existed had it not been for this sport.

There are many people that I want to thank. I want to thank my parents, for always being supportive of me and encouraging me to chase my dreams, no matter how ridiculous they may have seemed at times. Thank you for sacrificing your time, energy, money and quite possibly your sanity to make sure that I succeeded. There aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am for you. Thank you to my friends for having my back and helping me to believe in myself. Thank you for putting up with me all of these years despite my hectic schedules keeping me from being the good and reliable friend that you all deserve. Thank you to the coaches for giving me the opportunity to attend this incredible university and experience the beautiful madness that is Iowa Softball. Thank you to the fans for showing your unyielding support and helping to make Iowa feel like home.

This school, this community, and this team will always have a special place in my heart. I will always be proud to have been a part of all of this. I will always be proud to be a Hawkeye.

Jillian Navarrete
Senior, Pitcher

Ode to Iowa

Oh Iowa-

You have been so good to me the last four years
Your Midwest charm surprises me everyday
Your devoted Hawkeye fans are something I have never experienced
Your bipolar weather keeps me on my toes
And your tornado drills scare me every time

Iowa, oh lovely, Iowa
Before I came here
I have never seen a bald eagle
Or swam in a lake
I have never played softball in the snow
Or been knocked over by the wind
I have never experienced a bone chilling winter
Or seen a black squirrel
I have never been stuck behind a tractor on a two-lane road
Or seen so many rolling hills of corn
I have never seen a sky so blue
Or a sunset so pink
I never knew what God’s Country was like
Or that I was going to miss you so much

Oh Iowa,
Thank you
For giving me the opportunity to play the game I love
With some of the best friends I will ever have
During some of the best years of my life

Iowa, I leave you
With tougher skin
A fuller heart
And a place I can call home

Sammi Gyerman
Redshirt junior, Outfield

April 1, 2016

The home season is here and we could not be more excited! I know, once we get out on that field, we’ll be ready to go and all our fans will be right behind us in the stands. One of my favorite things about Iowa Softball is the unwavering support of our fans; rain, sleet, or snow; cold or hot, they are always there. In fact growing up I was one of those crazy fans trying to catch games.

It makes me appreciate the community we are in and the support we get playing at home so much. I could not be more excited for 16 games on our home turf this season. We got some early opportunities to be outside and we are working to make more to feel out how Pearl will play defensively and offensively for us. With so many home games this season, the field will be a huge component in our game.

Beyond what is on the field, I am also so excited to look up at the stands and see our awesome fans. I love seeing so many faces I know and I’m also excited to see some new faces too. To those reading this blog – please don’t hesitate to come introduce yourself to the team. We all love our fans and really appreciate all the incredible support you give us throughout the season!

Sixteen home games! I cannot wait for the home season to get underway!

#23 Kara Misel
Junior, infield

March 24, 2016

After five weeks of nonconference play, we are all definitely excited to start the Big Ten season. For the past few weeks, we got to represent the Big Ten all over the country, but now I’m ready to compete against our fellow conference opponents.

While we’ve had the chance to travel to some really warm and fun places so far, conference play is definitely my favorite part of the season. Instead of preparing to play multiple teams in one weekend, we can now focus on one opponent and prepare for them throughout the week.

The start of our conference season also means our home season is near. Fortunately, we get to play a lot of home series this spring. I love playing at home on Pearl Field in front of our great fans. I’m also excited to play Penn State this year. They are the only Big Ten team that I haven’t played against so far.

Our travel style changes with the conference season, too. Now we get to bus to all of our games. I love bus trips with my Hawkeyes. We always have a good time on the bus messing around, dancing, and, of course, taking embarrassing sleeping pictures of each other.

We’ve definitely been waiting for conference season to start. We now have a 0-0 record, and if we come out strong and play to our potential, I believe we will have a very successful conference season. It all starts this weekend with Indiana, and we plan to take three from the Hoosiers!

Let the road to the Big Ten Tournament begin!

Go Hawks!

#14 Kaitlyn Mullarkey
Junior, Infield

March 17, 2016

We are all very thankful for the opportunity to come play in Hawaii. The team is soaking up the culture as much as possible, especially those who haven’t been to the islands before. I was fortunate enough to go to Kauai and Oahu back in high school, so I’m doing less sightseeing and more relaxing. I’ve spent majority of my free time laying on the beach and dodging waves. But much as the team loves our free team, we’ve enjoyed our activities together too.

Our morning beach workout with Jillian’s cousin and his Army buddies was much more fun than any of us had anticipated. It was a great way to start off the week and get adjusted to the time change, and was a definitely a team bonding experience. Having the coaches and staff join us for the workout really brought us together as a whole unit.

The other early morning team activity was the sunrise hike to Diamond Head. This hike was much more enjoyable then the first time I did it. It was much cooler in the morning, and there were less people crowding the trails. The sunrise view at the top was absolutely beautiful and I’m sure there are hundreds of pictures of it on our phones.

I’m super excited for Friday’s early morning trip to Pearl Harbor and I hope the team will be impacted just as much as I was the first time I went. It’s something everyone should experience if they have the opportunity to.

Even though we are having a lot of fun doing touristy things, we haven’t forgotten why we’re here; to get some W’s!! We’ve had practices on our off days and are making sure our bodies are ready to compete; whether it’s hydrating or working with our training staff. This week of games is especially important to get us ready for Big Ten season. It gives us a chance to get back into the swing of playing the same team multiple times in one weekend, along with only playing one game a day. We need to keep taking advantage of our opportunities, and the wins will come.

Go Hawks!!

#7 Claire Fritsch
Junior, Infield

ALOHA from the beautiful state of Hawaii!

After enduring a nine hour flight, the anticipation of finally being here was settled. I can speak for the whole team in that we had been looking forward to this trip since last spring break when we found out we would be going to Hawaii. This incredible opportunity to visit Honolulu and play the game I love will forever be one of the most memorable parts of my softball career here at Iowa.

We are very fortunate to be staying at a very historic and popular hotel that overlooks the ocean on the Waikiki beach. We made it to the hotel just in time to see the 22nd annual Honolulu Festival Parade that took place in the street right outside our hotel. Following the parade, the majority of the team sprinted out to the beach to soak in some last minute rays. Within minutes all of the California girls on the team were out swimming in the ocean. Monday morning, we were up bright and early for a sunrise army-style beach workout provided for us by JiJi’s (Jillian Navarrete) cousin and the rest of his Army group. For most of us, this was our first time running on a beach barefoot so this unleashed a whole new soreness in our legs. The core of the workout consisted of relays where we did sand bag and water jug carries, fireman carries, squats, pushups, and flutter kicks. Since I mentioned fireman carries, I want to give Katy (Taylor) a shout out because she was my partner and she carried me over her shoulders and killed it! It was so invigorating to workout alongside of those guys and get a peek at some of the workout activities they do

That night we were able to explore the island and partake in shenanigans of our choice. For some of us that was snorkeling, staying at the hotel to catch some rays, or traveling around to the North Shore for numerous different activities. For me I took off to the North Shore with my parents to view different parts of the island, indulge in great foods, and go paddle boarding with my mom while my dad got a good laugh and captured some great moments on his camera. While paddle boarding we saw numerous sea turtles, crabs that sat on the rocks along the water, a manta ray, and lots of fishies!

The next morning, we woke up bright and early again to hike up Diamond Head. The view at the top was breathtaking. The full 360 view included the sunrise, the ocean, mountains, and the city. Beside the view, it was so intriguing to see the network of tunnels, stairways, and bunkers that were placed in to the mountain for military purposes.

That night we set out for some entertainment at the Polynesian Center where we attended a luau! These first few days were very enriching but now we are excited to take care of business on the field. These next three days we will be focusing strictly on softball and to bring home some wins!

Thank you to everybody who made this trip possible for us!


#24 Shayla Starkenburg
Redshirt Junior, Pitcher

March 11, 2016

During the past few weeks of nonconference play, we have learned to pick each other up as a team. Defense, offense, and pitching are essentially the three pieces to a softball team, and if one of those areas is struggling, another part pushes harder to help us be successful.

We have learned to work as a unit by doing the little things right every day. That a “team” mentality and not a “me” mentality will help us move forward. Whether it is changing a position player or someone coming into pinch hit, as a team and as players we fill those rolls and take the opportunities presented before us.

On the flip side of that, when we don’t execute the things we know how to do it sets us up for failure. We have to buy into the process and listen to what are coaches are teaching us. We have to play in the present and not worry about the past or the future. We have to be in the here and now. If we learn from our shortcomings, then we never actually fail.

Go Hawks!

#1 Elizabeth Wiegand
Junior, Pitcher

March 3, 2016

I am not a big stickler on pregame routines. I don’t have a particular song that I like to listen to on repeat on the way to a game. I don’t have a certain way of putting my gold socks on in the mornings before we take the field. I don’t have a set meal that I need to eat before I play. However, I do have one requirement for myself on game days- I have to feel good!

My pregame routine consists of whatever I’m feeling on that day. When we travel for pre-season, I usually blast some Beyoncé in my hotel room and try to get pumped up for the day.

As a team, we don’t really have many things that pump us all up on a game day. When we are playing a series at home in Iowa City, we usually hook up Erin Erickson’s iPod and dance around in the locker room. Our playlists are all over the place. Some times we like to listen to Disney music before games and other days we cant get away from some hard-core rap and hip hop. I would say that the most consistent artists who show up on our pre-game playlist would be Beyoncé (duh), Kanye West, Rihanna, Fetty Wap, JayZ, and Justin Timberlake (Erin’s favorite). Because none of us can really come to a consensus about the type of music to play in the locker room, we usually end up with a healthy mix of artists and genres that accomplishes the goal of pumping us all up individually. Shout outs and song requests are always welcome in the locker room but every song that gets played must be able to get us up and dancing!

The most important thing for myself on a game day is to feel prepared and ready to take on the day. Luckily for myself, and many of my teammates, music is a great way to accomplish that!

#12 Angela Schmiederer
Sophomore, Catcher

Feb. 25, 2016
Juggling school and softball as a student-athlete takes a great amount of time management, efficiency, and a pretty big planner. As a freshman, I had a tough time planning out my days and managing my time. I was so overwhelmed in my transition to college. It was a big step in my life to move across the country and play at the collegiate level at a Big Ten school, my classes were difficult, and I had a tough enough time figuring out the app for the bus schedule. Throughout the first few weeks a couple of my teammates had helped me figure out a plan, and I got help from an academic advisor and a time management assistant.

After being in the program for a year, I can finally say that even though I may not have it all together, I’m a lot better than where I started. Being a student-athlete isn’t easy, and a plan of attack for everyday is a must if you want to thrive in academics and in your game, especially during season. Coach Looper reminds us constantly that we are students before we are athletes and our academics hold priority.

I was grateful enough to have amazing teammates that knew what I was going through as a newbie. They were there to help me strengthen my time management skills and align my priorities. It’s been a great experience learning life lessons here at the University of Iowa and growing as an individual. I know that the lessons I am learning here are going to prepare me for opportunities in the real world after I graduate.

#17 Allie Wood
Sophomore, OF

As some of the butterflies of beginning a brand new season start to settle, the ultimate balancing act of being a Division I student-athlete begins. Our time management skills are put to the test between practice, games, classes, homework and trying to maintain some small smidgen of a social life.

If you asked me about my time management skills five years ago, I probably would’ve bragged to you about how I would start and finish a paper the same day it was due, and how I would get by studying for quizzes ten minutes before I had to take them (sorry mom and dad). Nonetheless, I learned pretty quickly that my old habits were not going to work in college, especially as an athlete. Coming in as a freshman, you are practicing more than you have ever before. Combine that with going to an esteemed school like the University of Iowa, the workload can be lofty.

After the first few weeks you start learn that the key to success is starting assignments early and chipping away on bigger papers/projects is definitely the way to go. With a year of experience I now know everything can become much less stressful if you are organized, and that tools like planners, highlighters and post-it notes are awesome.

With my sophomore season in full swing, I can now appreciate and enjoy the privilege of being a Division I student-athlete. Yet, it is important to remember being a student comes before being an athlete and having success in the classroom allows you the opportunity to thrive on the field.

#20 Daniella Ibarra
Sophomore, IF

Feb. 18, 2016

This past weekend, the moment we have all been waiting for finally arrived. Spending our season-opening weekend in Corpus Christi, Texas, brought beautiful weather, and a chance to finally hang up the turf shoes and lace up the cleats to step on real dirt again.

We learned a lot about what we are already good at as a team, and what we need to do better throughout the duration of the season. Having more depth in the pitching circle has allowed the defense to play like we know we are capable of; however we also need generate more runs while our pitchers are working hard to keep us in close games. And of course, we learned that a second, (or third), layer of sunscreen is never a bad idea.

As a freshman last year, I never really anticipated how quickly season goes by, and how much I would miss traveling with my teammates to states I had never been before. This season I plan on soaking up every base hit, pitch, and inning, because it will be over before I know it. Having five games under our belt provides our team with the insight we need to take the rest of season head on and have the success that we all know we are capable of. #44

Daniela Chambers
Sophomore, C

The first week of competition is one of the most exciting weeks of the season. We are excited about being able to play outside and get to warmer weather. Especially in Corpus Christi the views were amazing along with the weather. The excitement really settles in when the plane lands and you’re in a different climate.

This past weekend brought some good times and some learning opportunities. All we can do is grow from here as a team, and the first few games showed us what we really needed to concentrate on. As a team we struggled at the plate last weekend, but I have confidence that we will work hard and gain momentum throughout the season.

We get to play inside this weekend in Rosemont, Illinois. This should be a good opportunity for us since we are used to practicing inside. I feel great about the season and cannot wait to see what is in store for us. We have a lot of great trips planned this year along with a lot of home series in Big Ten Conference action. Seeing all of the fans at home games is the best. Being able to stay home in your own atmosphere will make the game even more fun than it already is.

As a Hawkeye, the opportunity to play at the University of Iowa while being supported by so many people is a great honor. This opportunity has brought me so many different experiences and I am very excited see what the rest of the season brings.

#27 Cheyenne Pratt
Sophomore, OF

Feb. 4, 2016

As members of Iowa Softball, we all strive to live by our five team pillars: respect, teamwork, integrity, loyalty and discipline. One way we put these pillars into action is through our volunteer work. The Iowa Softball program serves as a platform for all 22 of us to become more involved with our community and serve those around us. Our team volunteers in numerous ways throughout the year, mainly focusing on our respective organizations: The Iowa City Hope Lodge, the VA Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club, the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center, and the University of Iowa Reach Program.

I have had the honor of volunteering with the Reach Program for almost two years now. This program is unlike any other in the country. It offers students with multiple intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities the opportunity to have a true college experience and learn to become more independent. Being a part of Reach, I have been able to meet some incredible people. I have also gained leadership skills and helped introduce these students to the game of softball.

My teammates and I are involved with Reach in many ways; whether we get dinner with the students, play a game of kickball at Pearl or dodgeball, it is always a rewarding experience. Each Thursday my teammates and I challenge the students of Reach during our infamous games of dodgeball; we laugh, we dodge, and we sweat (a lot). The relationships and time we spend together are mutually beneficial and have expanded further than our weekly meetings.

Serving our community is of huge importance to our team and our program as a whole. It is a part of who we are and is something we pride ourselves on. We would not be able to do what we do every day without the support of those around us, and for that we are honored to give our time to help leave this place a little better than how we found it.

Go Hawks!

#9 Sarah Kurtz
Sophomore, IF/OF

Jan. 28, 2016

Tuesday night (1/26) the team had the honor of hosting our season ticket holders and donors for dinner. As a freshman, it was an amazing opportunity to get to know all of our supporters. The amount of pride our guests had for our university was overwhelming. There wasn’t a single person in the room who wasn’t bleeding black and gold. I sat at a table with two men and two women who have held season tickets for over thirty years. It was inspiring to listen to them tell stories about games they’ve attended, and share memories of those games that they’ll never forget.

It was awesome to see the interaction our team had with our guests. A few of our players got the chance to stand up and speak about how they have grown within the Hawkeye community. The game is much bigger than ourselves. It takes more than just the team to build the program we are so blessed to be a part of. Everyone in the room, plus hundreds more, are the reasons why our team is able to be here today. Thank you to all of our supporters who continue to cheer for us year in and year out. We are excited to see everyone at the field this season. Go Hawks!

#16 Brooke Rozier
Freshman, catcher

I had a great experience talking with season ticket holders and huge supporters of Iowa softball on Tuesday night. It was a privilege to sit down and have dinner with some of our fans. Some of them have been fans since day one. I enjoyed the time that I had with every single one of them. As a Hawkeye, I would love to meet many more fans while I’m here. I think it’s great that the fans want to get to know us, but it’s just as great for us as student-athletes.

Part of the night included Iowa softball trivia. It really opened my eyes as to how passionate our fan base is. They know so much about the history of Iowa softball! I didn’t know many of the answers, but I plan to start looking up some of the history in my free time to get to know the players who were here before me.

I haven’t been at Iowa for very long, but I’ve learned how well-known the Iowa softball team is for participating in the community, and I enjoy spending time with everyone involved. Spending time with the season ticket holders was so exciting, and I really enjoyed it. The experience made me appreciate not only being a part of the softball program, but the University of Iowa as well.

Thank you to all of our supporters for all that you do. I can’t wait to see you in the stands cheering us on! Go Hawks!

#10 Katy Taylor
Sophomore, shortstop

Jan. 21, 2016

My first semester at The University of Iowa was definitely full of learning experiences to say the least. However, I think the biggest thing that I learned last was how important it is to get to know my professors and the other students in my classes. Introducing yourself to a professor may be an intimidating experience for some, but it has proved to be so beneficial.

The professors that I reached out to more than others were much more willing to extend a helping hand. In addition to introducing myself to professors and instructors, it was also beneficial to my learning experience last semester to know some of my fellow students, particularly in my larger lecture halls. When I was having difficulty understanding a subject the professor was lecturing about, I was always able to meet up with another student in my class or an entire study group for extra tutoring and explanations.

I’m not the most outgoing person on the first day of class, but I had to get outside of my comfort zone — I’m glad I did because I gained new study habits, study strategies, and some new friends.

#6 Erin Riding
Freshman, pitcher

Jan. 14, 2016

Throughout this week of preseason camp, I’ve enjoyed coming alongside a group of girls who are all eagerly awaiting a new season. I now have a different outlook when I prepare myself for each day. I’ve always known the person that I strive to be, but I’ve never realized how easy it is to question myself in a game where failure is more common than success. This week has allowed me to focus on myself as an individual and not just as a softball player. Obstacles may get in my way, but I know how to fight to stay true to myself. My values as a person have pushed me so far, and they will continue to push me throughout the season.

After this week, I cannot wait to take each practice and each game one by one with my teammates. We are focused on perfecting the little things. It’s an exciting time of year, and I’m ready to see where all the hard work we are putting in now is going to take us!

#11 Mallory Kilian
Freshman, pitcher/utility