Ole Miss softball is looking to reach new heights in 2014.
Jan. 31, 2014
This is part five of a five-part series previewing the 2014 Ole Miss softball season. Part five takes a broader outlook on the upcoming 2014 season. Part four looked at the Rebels’ outfield, while part three was on the Ole Miss infield. Part two focused on the Ole Miss pitching staff, and part one was on the Rebels’ coaches and schedule.
OXFORD, Miss. – After the Ole Miss softball team closed out the 2013 season with a pair of emphatic victories, the team huddled together one final time. It was in that huddle that one season finished, and the next season began.
“It was said in the final postgame huddle, ‘We want more,’ ” Ole Miss head coach Windy Thees recalled. “Yeah, we had a lot of people telling us how great we were doing and how much better we’ve been than we have ever been before, but our players actually got frustrated with that. You don’t want to be congratulated when you didn’t make the goals you set out for yourself, even if they were harder and higher than the program has ever reached before.”
Throughout the fall and spring, the Rebels kept that in mind as they worked on and off the field. Returning eight of nine starters from a season ago, paired with a strong incoming class, the future is bright in Oxford for the softball program, and Thees has more options at her disposal than she’s ever had before.
“It’s going to be an exciting year for me to figure out how to use our depth effectively and making more switches than I’ve ever had to make, which is a great problem to have when you have so many talented kids,” Thees said. “It will be more about the best matchup and the best defense against certain teams and the best offense against certain teams.”
One trait Thees is particularly excited about with this year’s team is its versatility, a trait she says she looks for in prospective student-athletes when recruiting. Now, with so many players on the roster who can play multiple positions, Thees said she has enjoyed scrimmaging and switching people around the field to different positions and the players not lose a step.
With so much depth on the Ole Miss roster, along with that versatility, that daily competition has raised the bar in performance and focus, or as Thees calls it, “focused fun.”
“If you over-focus and don’t have fun, you’re going to stress out, fail and wallow in it and get some head cases happening. Then if you don’t focus and you just have fun you’re not going to care as much. You want to have that focused fun. That’s the key to winning and really, really enjoying your sport.”
The NCAA Tournament, as always, remains the No. 1 goal for the softball team. With a nation-leading eight Southeastern Conference teams being ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Division I preseason top 25 poll, the conference season will be as challenging and exciting as ever.
“We want to achieve higher goals for Ole Miss than has ever been reached before,” Thees said. “We want to be that first program to do a lot of things. This year, we need to make the SEC Tournament and we need to make the NCAA Tournament because that’s something we have the potential to do.”
So now with the 2014 season just one week away, the Rebels want one thing: More.
“We’ve tried to make sure we incorporate that into everything we do,” Thees said.
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