In its final conference series of the season, the Wisconsin softball team (12-8 Big Ten, 33-17 overall) will travel to Lincoln, Neb., for a three-game series against Nebraska, with the winner having the opportunity to seize sole possession of second place in the Big Ten conference standings.
“We know we’re in for a battle going to Nebraska on the road, being a new foe in the Big Ten and never having traveled there,” head coach Yvette Healy said during her Monday press conference. “They’re a great program, and I think it’s no better way for us to close out the season.”
The upcoming series with the Cornhuskers is pivotal for the Badgers, not only to solidify their position in the final conference standings, but also for an NCAA tournament at-large berth. As Healy pointed out, the team controls its own destiny moving forward.
“The big talk is postseason. We’re on the [NCAA tournament] bubble, and we’re excited about it,” Healy said. “I think our destiny is in our own hands, and the fact we’re still having conversations of what’s next and are we still going to be playing, that’s an exciting thing.”
However, despite the outside distractions and hoopla surrounding an NCAA tournament berth, Healy stressed that the team needs to keep its focus heading into the weekend. She is confident they will do so.
“From a focus standpoint, [the upcoming series with Nebraska is] what the team’s focusing on. It’s been fun being in the conversation about winning the Big Ten, but there’s still a lot of exciting things that can happen,” Healy said. “The team is really focused just playing great on the road at Nebraska and giving ourselves a chance to keep playing.”
Since Healy took over at Wisconsin in the summer of 2010, she has brought the program to new heights. Healy took the program from a 30-win season in 2011—a 10-win improvement from the previous season—to a team with 33 wins this season already.
“We’re really pleased. I think that we’re in a great position right now, and it’s something that we have to keep kind of taking a step back and enjoying, because the more you win, the more you want to win,” Healy said. “And the better the team plays, the more quickly you want it all to happen. You have to kind of put it all in perspective of it’s the group that we’ve got here, and we’re getting a lot out of them.”
The current success of the program can be attributed to break-out performances by junior infielder/outfielder Whitney Massey, who leads the nation in doubles, and sophomore infielder Michelle Mueller, who boasts a .268 batting average and a .967 fielding percentage.
Despite the team’s success with Healy at the helm, the second-year head coach said the program would not have made the strides it has during her tenure without the determination and work ethic of the coaching staff and student-athletes.
“For us in year two, we’ve worked our butt off just coaching and trying to improve the current players, and they don’t always buy in and they’re not always on board,” Healy said. “And this group: They do, and they’re excited about it. And I think their success really is about them wanting to be great. It would be a great story if we could pull it off and make the most of it.”