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 fourseniors 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 dont 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 doesnt 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 its about playing the game the right way 100 percent, he said. Im 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 teams reaction to losing the experience of five seniors.
Youre never going to replace the experience immediately,Eriksen said. But youre hoping over time that the maturation rate happens, and its 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 dont have captains on this team, Eriksen said. We have one captain of the ship. Thats me. But Imholding the rudder andeveryone else isstroking like crazy, if I see this one person not stroking Ill put someone else in thatposition. … Leadership is seen, not heard, so if you have everyplayer playing their best, giving100 percent effort, thatsadmired.
With all the rankings that could cloud any teams focus, Eriksen is approaching this season with what he describes as being cautiously optimistic.
Theyve 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, youve already beaten the odds, Eriksen said.