The Wisconsin softball team kicks off the fall season this Sunday in a double-header against Kirkwood Community College at the Goodman Diamond at 1 p.m and 3 p.m, respectively.
Wisconsin comes into this year with high expectations, coming off back-to-back 30 win seasons, including a 34 win season a year ago which was one of the best seasons in team history. Their season was cut short, however, after failing to make the NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Yvette Healy, in her third season with the program, believes the 2012-’13 squad can turn the corner and compete for a Big Ten title and beyond.
“Right from the start, and we know it’s a lofty goal, but the goal is to win the Big Ten [title]. It’s something that hasn’t been done in softball before,” Healy said. “It takes a tremendous amount of work, leadership and team-bonding but I think that its the goal for every team at Wisconsin.”
Since practice got underway earlier this week, there hasn’t been anything short of hard work as Healy has challenged her players by doing a lot of competition drills, including a two-hour intense obstacle drill that tested their physical and mental strength.
The lofty expectations are welcomed with the return of all 10 players from last year’s squad in addition to eight new freshmen, who have impressed Healy early on.
“They’re catching on nicely but I think we have a great group of freshmen. They’re very humble and excited to be playing at Wisconsin,” Healy said. “There seems to be a real appreciation for getting to wear the W on their jerseys this weekend and we really like to surround ourselves with people like that.”
Of the 18 players in the program, no player may be more important than senior infielder/outfielder Whitney Massey. Massey, an all-Big Ten first team player in 2012, looks to build upon her 2012 statistics, where she posted a .358 average including team-best 22 doubles and 36 RBIs.
“She led the country in doubles last year and that is a big deal for her, the program and the university,” Healy said of her star player. “She’s a player that just keeps on getting better and I think she’s the answer of what we’re trying to make the program all about.”
Massey, who is climbing the Wisconsin softball career rankings, sits sixth all-time for on-base percentage (.400), fifth for OPS (.857) and fourth for doubles (32) but isn’t worried about her impressive career statistics. Instead, her main focus is team success as she concludes her final season at UW.
“I’m excited [for this season] and I want a ring on my finger from Big Ten [title] and make the NCAA [tournament],” Massey said. “I think for sure this is the team that can do it. I’ve never seen a team like this at Wisconsin since I’ve been here.”