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Q&A with Head Coach Cindy Connelley

February 3, 2004 · MT Media Relations

Talk a little about the fall season and preseason workouts.

"During the fall season, we had 10 new faces out of the 20 we have. We did an awful lot of off the field bonding with the challenge course and some community service. We did the challenge course three times. So, it was all about bringing the new people into the system. Also, it was pure softball because we had to get ready for the Evansville tournament, which we won. In the home tournament, we played one day and went undefeated. It was a productive fall season on and off the field. I think what really rose to the top was the work ethic and the camaraderie. I think this is a really special team that finds a way to win."

How is the pitching staff progressing?

"Muriel Ledbetter and Leora Brannon are returning. We added Crystal Bobo, who is a transfer from Tennessee. The freshmen that came in are Trish White, Brittany Herald and Ashley Frizzell. It is a relatively young and untested pitching staff. So, we see it as pitching by committee. We also have Jennifer Dorais coming back, who is also the first freshman here to ever throw a perfect game. As we see it right now, Crystal Bobo will throw number one for us, and Jennifer Dorais will throw number two. We have got mid-relievers and closers, but it could be a pitch by committee. You could see seven pitchers in one ball game."

I know you have some holes to fill in the infield and outfield. Talk a little about how that is shaping up.

"The starters we lost were Megan Cherinka at first base, Kip Phillips at centerfield, Stayc Preator who was a co-captain and an ace on the mound, and Erica Buhl in leftfield. I will start with Katie Tompkins because she is a co-captain along with Courtney Mitchell. She learned the position last year. She was a first-team Junior College All-America. She had to play behind Erica Buhl in leftfield. Katie had a tremendous fall for us after just coming off of a stress fracture. It is just a matter of how quickly she finds timing for the season. We feel really good about Trish White, who is a freshman and is playing a just a tremendous centerfield for us. With Michelle Wilkes and Brandy Davis, they are all fighting for that centerfield spot. On the corner, we have Brittany Herald and Liz Davis. Liz Davis is a junior college transfer from Motlow. Brittany Herald is a freshman from Ezell-Harding. In fact, she is one of four Ezell-Harding people on the team with Courtney Mitchell, Crystal Bobo and Brittany Herald. So, we could essentially have four Ezell-Harding girls all starting at the same time. The good news is that all four seniors had their career best years their senior year. The challenge that faces us is I think we can be better or as good at all of those positions."

You discussed earlier about the challenge courses. Talk about the cohesiveness of the team.

"I think we are learning that off the field camaraderie is as important as on the field camaraderie. With a young team, that is probably the biggest challenge we have this year in getting everybody to be part of the team, being positive and accepting their role. Because when you have 21 people on your team, you are only going to play nine to 15 people in a ball game. We are probably going to have five to seven people sitting. So if people will accept their roles and work to improve like Katie Tompkins, who is an incredible story. She was a first team Junior College All-America, and then she goes to sitting on the bench. But, now she is stepping up and she produced in the fall. With the challenge courses, everybody participated and had a lot fun. We went Christmas caroling at a nursing home. We are doing some in-school community projects. President and Mrs. McPhee had that softball team over for dinner. We had a really neat evening of sharing. This team is special because they have that twinkle in their eyes. They want to win and are willing to work hard. But, you always want to polish that. You want to make it a little bit better and get a little stronger. You can usually win half of your games on talent. The other half of your games are won on team cohesiveness."

Do you have any question marks about this team?

"The question marks are always the pitching. We are young and relatively untested. We have got a new catcher, a senior transfer in Angie Huebner. We have moved some people around. I think there is a question mark there in how good we can be and how early."

What does it mean for this team to be opening the season at home this year?

"We are opening the season at home for the first time in years. It is always tough to go to Florida State and open with them when they have already played six to 12 ball games. When you lose close games to Iowa State 3-2 and 2-1, you have to step back and say we are comparing apples and oranges. So, this will give us a chance to play at home. It will give the fans an early look at the team. Knock on wood, you hope the weather holds because it can be a snow out or rain out. We lost nine games last year to the weather, which was even later in the year. Depending on what Mother Nature brings our way, we will try to fight through it. It is always an advantage when you play at home. You don't have to travel. Your routine is fairly the same. It gives us a couple of games before we go play SEC opponents at South Carolina. That will be a tough tournament for us, but we are up for the challenge."

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