FORT MYERS, Fla. - After weeks and months of preparation, the 2014 season has finally arrived for the Ole Miss softball team. The Rebels will head south to Fort Myers, Fla., to the home of Florida Gulf Coast University to compete in the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Invitational.
Ole Miss begins play at the tournament Friday against Western Kentucky at 1:30 p.m. CT. The Hilltoppers won the Sun Belt Conference regular season championship last season after going 20-3 in league play. WKU enters the 2014 season receiving votes in the preseason USA Today/NFCA Coaches top 25 and the preseason ESPN.com/USA Softball top 25. The Rebels will then turn around and play host school Florida Gulf Coast at 3:45 p.m. CT.
"We want to get off to a fast start," Ole Miss head coach Windy Thees said. "We've been swinging the bat a lot because of this horrible weather, so we've gotten a lot of extra cuts in the cages. We've been able to have a lot of at-bats and swings, so we want to make sure we're scoring a lot of runs this weekend.
"Our pitchers have done a really good job of developing all of their pitches and all of their pitches at different speeds. The speed differential is what I'm really focusing on this year to take us to the next level as a pitching staff and hopefully bring that ERA down so that if we score four runs we're going to win no matter what."
On Saturday, Ole Miss will face Georgetown at 9:00 a.m. CT, followed by a matchup against Liberty at 1:30 p.m. CT that same day. The Rebels will close out play in the tournament on Sunday with the opponent and time of game dependent on performance in the tournament.
The Rebels return eight of nine starters from a year ago, including four of five pitchers and 13 of 16 letterwinners. Ole Miss will be looking to build on its fantastic defense from a year ago where it set a program record with a .979 mark, which ranked fifth nationally.
With the season finally here, Thees said it's a funny balance of wishing the season would finally arrive, and then realizing it actually is here.
"The preseason is like, `Oh man, this is going on and on,' and now that the season is here you're like, `Wait, did we put this in, did we do this, did we do that?' " said Thees, who is beginning her third season at Ole Miss. "We've gone over our first and third plays, our bunt and slap defense, we've gone over cuts, but then in your head you're like, `Did we go over it enough?' A few weeks ago you're like, `Man, can we get the season here?'
"As a coach, the season is great because your players are playing, but your opportunities to teach kind of shrink down. Now you're just making minor adjustments throughout the season," Thees said. "Now it's more about strategizing, preparing for games and teams. It's a different type of coaching, whereas before it's actually teaching the game and instructing the players. This is game time, x's and o's, putting the right people in and making the right substitutions."
Ole Miss got off to the second best start in program history through 25 games last season when it began 16-9. The Rebels will look to top that mark this season and continue to re-write the record books under Thees' tutelage.
THE SEASON: Ole Miss Basketball (2014) - Episode 7 from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.In case you missed it, here are each of the first six episodes of The Season: Ole Miss Basketball:Episode 1 (Season overview, Auburn, Mississippi State games)Episode... read more
In less than a full indoor season with the Ole Miss track & field team, Australian distance runner Daniel Bulmer has had a significant impact on the school record books and set the stage for a lot more to come... read more
What a Win tonight... Very Proud of our team #ProudCoach #Passion #Process #1MISSion-- Matt Insell (@minsell) March 6, 2014 What a great win for our program tonight! This team has come so far! Watch us take on Auburn tomorrow night... read more
Proceeding from 1995 to 1996, we will highlight moment No. 23 in head coach Billy Chadwick's career. This particular moment will accentuate a tremendous individual accomplishment. In 1996, Sweden's Johan Hede became the first Rebel in Ole Miss tennis history... read more
The Ole Miss women's basketball team looks to carry the momentum from a 73-71 overtime win over Auburn on Senior Day this past Sunday into this week's Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. The Rebels are... read more
Ole Miss and Arkansas are both looking to improve their Southeastern Conference standing and possibly play their way into a top-four seed and a double bye to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament next week in Atlanta. The Rebels are... read more
Senior Bo Wallace returns at quarterback and will go through spring drills for the first time since 2012, having missed spring practice last year recovering from offseason shoulder surgery."I feel like strength-wise, I'm a lot better than I was at... read more
Audio of Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell's time on the SEC teleconference Monday as well as audio of Arkansas head coach Tom Collen and Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. Ole Miss is the No. 14 seed in this week's... read more
Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewFeb. 24-March 2, 2014Baseball- Ole Miss posted four straight walk-off wins this past week on the way to two wins over ULM and a sweep of UCF.- Junior right-handed pitcher Chris Ellis has not allowed... read more
To begin this week, we are ending 1995 for moment No. 24. This moment is another first for the Ole Miss tennis program and is the product of a true collective effort by Coach Chadwick and the Rebels.By now, you... read more
Photo GalleryA total of 25 scouts representing 22 NFL teams were on hand at Ole Miss' annual Pro Day Monday, including former Rebel Von Hutchins, now with the Oakland Raiders organization. Donte Moncrief, who participated in the 2014 NFL Combine,... read more