Ole Miss softball head coach Windy Thees and the Rebels are aiming for regionals in 2013.
Jan. 29, 2013
This is part one of a four-part series previewing the 2013 Ole Miss softball season. Part one focuses on the Rebels' coaching staff and schedule.
OXFORD, Miss. - There's a different vibe at the Ole Miss Softball Complex these days. As Ole Miss softball head coach Windy Thees prepares the Rebels for their 17th year in program history, and their second under her tutelage, the goal is clear: Regionals.
It's a place Ole Miss has never been before, but it's a place and date Thees has made the Rebels save on their calendar.
"We don't have a saying or anything that we're going with, but we do have an expectation, and that is that we will be in regionals for the first time this year," Thees said. "That is our expectation, and anything short of that will make this a disappointing season for us."
Last year, Ole Miss improved its overall win total by eight games, and its conference win total by four. Gone are four position starters from that team, and coming in are nine newcomers, including two junior transfers and seven freshmen. Helping Thees get every player on the same page will be assistant coaches Julie Meyer and Mike Perniciaro, who both return from last year's squad, a key Thees says is imperative to a team's success.
"It's the bench mark of almost every successful program," Thees said. "You don't really see teams win that rotate their staff out a lot. You just don't see it happen. When you find a good staff, you keep them and you keep them happy as much as you can and do everything in your power to help their career, but keep them happy so maybe they'll want to stick around."
One of the many advantages of having continuity in a coaching staff is in the world of recruiting. With Meyer and Perniciaro back, the recruiting pitch remains consistent. When talking with potential recruits, the three coaches lay out what they're looking for and what they are going to expect from them. In the words of Thees, those student-athletes are extremely tough and extremely competitive and they don't accept losing.
"We're winners here," Thees said. "Coach Pooch, Julie and I, that's what we are, and that's who we're recruiting. We're recruiting kids who want to be at the start of what we're doing, because that's where we are right now. This is an amazing school, with an amazing facility and an absolutely fabulous athletic department. Getting kids to come here to this school is fine, now we have to convince them that, `We want you to come, but you better come ready to play and ready to help take us to Oklahoma City, which is where we want to go.' "
The Rebels schedule is both difficult and exciting. Spanning from Hawaii to Florida, the 2013 Rebels will get to see many places and face many great opponents, including 12 teams ranked or receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 preseason poll.
The Rebels open the season in Honolulu with the Oceanic Time Warner Cable Paradise Classic, where they will face No. 25 Hawaii and No. 16 Washington, in addition to Saint Mary's and UAB.
Ole Miss' home opener will be against LSU in a rare non-conference matchup. Because the two teams do not face each other in the SEC regular season, Thees and LSU head coach Beth Torina decided they would like to continue the rivalry by playing one game against each other in a non-conference game setting. The game will also be special as the Rebels and Tigers will be playing it as a charity event.
"We're going to do it as a charity event where we're going to be donating new or gently used sports equipment to their Geaux Play program that was started by former LSU All-American Brittany Mack," Thees said. "It's a really cool program and we're excited to be a part of it."
Ole Miss will host the Red and Blue Classic from Feb. 22-24, where it will face McNeese State, Tennessee-Martin, Drake, Middle Tennessee State and Mississippi Valley State.
In SEC action, the Rebels will travel to Kentucky, Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State. Ole Miss will host SEC newcomers No. 7 Missouri and No. 17 Texas A&M, in addition to No. 15 Florida and No. 5 Tennessee.
With the grueling 56-game regular season schedule in front of them, the Rebels are ready and excited to play ball. The goal is to rewrite the Ole Miss record book and make NCAA regionals, and they know the journey will be tough, Thees said, but the Rebels are ready for it.
"We're on a mission," Thees said. "We're going to have fun, but we're on a mission. When we don't achieve something one day we need to be disappointed. We need to be mad. We need to accept the fact that the coaches are going to yell. You're going to have to work harder. This mission that we're on to get to postseason play is going to be more intense, but that's exactly what the girls have fed on all fall."
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