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Bulls picked to win the Big East

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 01:01

Picked to win the Big East and ranked No. 10 in the nation, the USF softball team has a lot to be confident about heading into this season, which starts with the USF-Wilson DeMarini Opening Day Tournament on Feb. 8 against Marshall.

While the softball team is young with only four seniors on the team, losing five seniors from the previous season, a confidence boost could be useful but is unneeded from the team that made it to the college world series last season.

Though rankings look good on paper, especially heading into the season being ranked, in the long run they mean little, according to coach Ken Eriksen.

“You don’t pay attention to those, those are nice allocates,” he said. "I think if you ask our players where their focus is — being ranked No. 1 in the Big East, it doesn’t faze them.”

USF proved that by starting last year unranked, but by March 14 was No. 24 in the nation — finishing the year at No. 19.

The Bulls will look to outdo their World Series run last year, but it will have to start at practice —something that Eriksen will focus heavily on throughout the season.

“There are a lot of things that stats say you need to improve on, but it’s about playing the game the right way 100 percent,” he said. “I’m still looking for our first perfect practice of the year.”

Awaiting opening day, practice is the only thing the Bulls can focus on, but a lingering thought for fans could be the team’s reaction to losing the experience of five seniors.

“You’re never going to replace the experience immediately,” Eriksen said. “But you’re hoping over time that the maturation rate  happens, and it’s a positive situation.”

With the seniors gone and four new players, setting a lineup could prove to be difficult for such a young team. Eriksen seems to take that issue with a very simple philosophy by keeping the locker room level, making sure no one slacks off.

“We don’t have captains on this team,” Eriksen said. “We have one captain of the ship. That’s me. But I’m holding the rudder and everyone else is stroking like crazy, if I see this one person not stroking I’ll put someone else in that position. ... Leadership is seen, not heard, so if you have every player playing their best, giving 100 percent effort, that’s admired.”

With all the rankings that could cloud any team’s focus, Eriksen is approaching this season with what he describes as being “cautiously optimistic.”

“They’ve gone from paying attention to the details, to committing to the details, and once you take that step, which is a big step for a young person, you’ve already beaten the odds,” Eriksen said.

 

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