Softball Media Day Coverage

Feb. 15, 2012

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On Wednesday, Kentucky will hold its baseball and softball media day. Stay tuned to this page for the latest updates throughout the day.

Softball

Preseason Features

Head Coach Rachel Lawson

Opening remarks…
“Just wanted to thank all of you guys for coming out here today. I know that it’s a busy time, especially with our men’s basketball team and women’s basketball team doing as well as they continue to do. So, that’s pretty cool so I know you’re busy. But, it’s an exciting time for softball and for baseball. Obviously when you’re opening up it’s a great thing. It’s nice to get outside. We’ve been in the warm weather and we’re headed out to Florida tomorrow so we’re pretty excited about that to continue to improve and get better and to make a run at the SEC this year.”

On what she learned about her team during their first trip of the season…
“What did I learn about my team. Wow. I learned a lot of things about my team. You know, experience is obviously, as much as you talk to people during practice and games, young people don’t really believe you when you’re our age. It’s nice, when we were able to open up with UCLA, obviously they’re going to be one of the best teams in the country. We learned a lot because a lot of the little things that you take for granted when you haven’t been on the field and in that stage ever, they come back to haunt you a little bit. I was really glad to get those out of the way, to get that experience because we open up here against Alabama and right now they’re ranked second in the country. They’ve been a perennial World Series program and without that experience I don’t know that we would have been ready to play them. We have a lot of new people this year, not necessarily new to the team but new to the starting lineup and they’ve done an outstanding job. I was really impressed with Lauren Cumbess defensively. I don’t get an opportunity to watch her in the field a lot during practice. I get to see her every day on the mound, and she’s an outstanding pitcher but to be able to watch what she could do on the field was very impressive to me. I was really encouraged by Ginny Carroll, who’s a sophomore. She’s an incredibly strong athlete and she showed that she can play on the national scene and so did Emily Gaines. So, those things were a little bit of a surprise to me, just how quickly they were able to adapt to that kind of a pressure and I feel really good about them. That was good.”

On how things have changed for her and the program since the experience at Super Regionals…
“The thing that I always tell my team, probably the hardest part with a young team is that they think that the team is just going to be able to continue where we left off last year. Certainly the returning players did that this weekend but with a lot of the new people this weekend they learned that you can’t just get older. You actually have to get better and smarter and what you did last year, people are going to be ready for it. Kentucky is not sneaking up on anybody anymore, which is a nice position to be in. Before we were definitely the underdog and in some situations we will be but I don’t think we’re going to be the underdog a lot this year. To be able to have that target on your back, that’s something that we’re going to have to learn to deal with, which is a nice thing to be.”

On what she thinks about being on the road for almost the entire first month of the season…
“It has its positives and it has its negatives. That’s all I know. That’s all I’ve done for the last 15 years. It’s a grind, I’ll be honest with you. Because, we not only have great athletes, we also have outstanding students. When they come back and their quote-on-quote day off, which is Monday, they’re taking tests and they have labs. They have a lot of things going on. They never have a true day off. They don’t have any time to themselves so it’s a physical grind. And, just traveling and getting on a plane as many times as you get on a plane is a really tough thing to do. But, on the flip side, when we travel like this, and we go to all of these warm weather climates, you’re playing outstanding opponents. In my opinion, what I try to do is I try to put out the best schedule that I can so that we can get ready for SEC play because that’s what we’re going to be doing. If we were to stay home as often, we wouldn’t have that opportunity. Unlike baseball, softball teams, five, six teams, often flock to a different site, like this weekend we’ll be playing five different opponents so you get five different looks. We probably wouldn’t be able to do that here. It’s a little risky to do that in February, to bring that many teams in.”

On how she expects this team to look different by April or May…
“I think what’s going to happen is, they’re going to gain a lot of confidence. The hardest thing to do when you get into college is to learn to adjust to the speed of the game. It doesn’t matter what sport it is. Right now, when you don’t have that game experience, the game just moves a lot faster in your eyes. Your brain has to move a lot faster. The balance beam that you’re walking on is a lot higher. Once they get comfortable in that role and they understand it, they can compete in that role and win games. I expect that they are going to be a lot more competitive and they’re going to win a lot of games that people don’t expect that they can win.”

On how important it is to build in a successful year like last year’s…
“It’s really important. First of all, it’s important to our older players. The senior class doesn’t know what it feels like to get beat handily day-in and day-out. It’s really important that they continue to build on their success, and we’ve done that over the past three years, so the next step for us is obviously Super Regionals, to win that and then to go to the World Series. It’s really important for them and it’s important to me that they have that experience. We want to be a national power, year-in and year-out. We want to be a Top-25 team, a Top-10 team. Like all teams here at Kentucky, we want to win the SEC Championship. In order to do that, you have to continue to build year-in and year-out. This year is a big one for us to prove that we can do it, not only when you have the same starting lineup for four years, but that we can bring in new people into the starting lineup and they can compete on the national scene.”

On whether the fan support has increased since the team sold out against Cal…
“It has. We have tremendous fans. Big Blue Nation is outstanding. We have a lot of people following us. That was our real opportunity. That was our last opportunity to play at home. That’s our last real showing. Sometimes the spring sports, since basketball is so outstanding, we’re a little bit in the background. But, we’ve definitely had a lot more support of people emailing and calling and wanting to go to tickets and all that sort of stuff. That’s huge and I expect, once the middle of March rolls around, I expect that we’ll have a lot more support from people that weren’t softball fans before but became softball fans last year.”

On whether last year’s successful weekend against Cal has helping for recruiting…
“It’s hard to tell because we recruit so many years out. The class that we signed this fall, in 2012, a number of them had been committed for two and a half years. I don’t think we’ll be able to see that until another two years from now. But, I will tell you that we have a lot more doors opened to us and when we go out to these national tournaments, everybody knows who the coaching staff is when we walk in. That’s sort of publicity that we got, and the fact that we were on ESPN. We were on ESPN three weekends in a row. I think it was like six or seven games in a row and I think that really helps in the recruiting process.”

On where she believes her pitching staff ranks in the SEC…
“Certainly, the other teams would maybe disagree, I think we have outstanding pitching. I don’t know if we’re the best pitching staff but I don’t know that there’s a pitching staff that’s better than ours. I think in the SEC, there’s three or four of us that have a number of outstanding pitchers. I wouldn’t trade my pitching staff for any staff in the league.”

On the significance of this year’s senior class…
“This senior class is really cool because , first, you have to give a lot of credit to Chanda Bell. I believe that no player in the history, definitely the history of Kentucky softball, but I would argue for most softball teams in the country, between her freshman and her sophomore year we had the biggest jump in RPI in the country. I think what happened, Chanda Bell’s first weekend out, she broke school records. When she did that, she gave our team a lot of hope and a lot of confidence. I believe that the team fed off of that. First and foremost, the credit has to go to Chanda Bell. Then, Chanda Bell went down in April and we were really worried for our program because we have our star pitcher. We kind of thought she was the one getting us, even though we had hitting and defense, she was just really keeping us in ball games. Then here comes Rachel Riley, who her first SEC start, she shut out Tennessee. We beat them and she kept Florida. We ended up losing one to nothing in eight innings but we have never even come close to Florida every before. We realized that we could do it with both of them and because of both of them over the last three seasons, we’ve gone to the postseason and then last year, all the way to Super Regionals. I certainly believe that those two deserve a lot of the credit for the turnaround in the program. With that said, I believe that Brittany Cervantes is one of the most exciting players in the country. She is so much fun to watch. The fans love her. The players love her. When she gets up in the box, something really good could happen so that gives our team a big boost a lot of times when we need it. Then, we have a lot of grinders that a lot of people don’t know about. Macy Allen shows up every day and she works hard. You have a lot of players on the team like that. They have really helped change the culture of our program. I think we deserve a lot of the credit to them.”

Rachel Riley, Senior, Pitcher/Designated Player

On building from last year’s post-season experience …  
“I think it’s really important. I think that since we only have two freshmen, almost everybody has been there and experienced it. We know what it’s like and we have that taste in our mouths, so we know we want to go back.”

On her personal goals this season …  
“I would love to get back to the World Series. As a pitcher, I would love to (have my) ERA from previous years. And as a hitter, I definitely want to increase my batting average and help produce for the team. I know that we lost the four seniors that really contributed in the line-up. So I know that it’s going to be really important for people to step up and fill those shoes. I hopefully want to be one of those players that is able to contribute.”

On going from being the underdog to being the team to beat …
“I think being an underdog was definitely an advantage because we knew that we were as good as those teams and they didn’t think we were as good. But I think being in the spotlight for Super Regionals helped. And I think that we know what’s it’s like to be there and as long as we continue to embrace that and try to stay at the top, then I think we will be okay.”

On the importance of capitalizing on her senior season …
“I think it’s very important. We know what it’s like to be there and saw how fun it was and how rewarding it was and all the hard work that we put in. We know what it takes to get there and everybody wants to go back.”

On the pitching staff …
“I love my teammates. I think that as a whole we’re really good because we all bring something different to the table. I’m going to through a lot down, Chanda (Bell)’s going to throw a lot up, and then we have the lefty (Ellen Weaver). I think the mix, the combination of everyone works really well.”

On how much leadership will play a role this season …
“I think leadership will show more during the season when we actually start playing. I think only having two freshmen helps too because everyone already knows what to expect and the two freshmen are learning quickly. I think both freshmen will be able to contribute to some leadership roles this year.”

Brittany Cervantes, Senior, Infield/Catcher

On being an excitable player and what that details …
“I don’t know. I think when it comes to practice and game time I just get excited. Obviously, you want to win and I feel we have a lot of potential. We may not have shown that this weekend, but we are a young team with new people at new positions. I just want to bring excitement to the team. I don’t want people to be nervous, I want them to be excited. I try to bring that out of people.”

On if this team has a different feel to it because of last year’s success …
“Yes, even though we did lose four tremendous players we are going to need people to step up in those positions. They know the expectations that we have for our team after making the Super Regionals. We now want to go to the World Series. They definitely want to rise to that occasion.”

On how important it is for the program to continue to rise and not take a step back …
“It is really important. I feel it would be a letdown if we didn’t go up to that expectation level. I definitely have that expectation and I want to go out with a bang and I am sure the rest of the seniors want to as well. I feel it is really important.”

On the road trips to start the season and how that has been so far …
“This month feels like we are never in Lexington. It is really important when teams go on road trips and it’s the same with us. These first few tournaments are important because they set a tone for going into SEC. You want to be on the winning end of things after this stretch because that is when we get a lot of your wins and get all the kinks out. They are very important.”

Kara Dill, Junior, Infield

On being a leader on the field …
“I think that with everyone moving around I have to be a staple in the infield. I am the only one that is not going to move, but I think that everyone around me is going to be moving. I have to be a staple that others can look at me and say, ‘OK, we can do this. We can get this done.’ We have to have a confidence and presence that the rest of the team really doesn’t feel the pressure of it not being their position but have the confidence to play it.”

On what would be a successful season this year …
“World Series is where we want to go every year. That is it.”

On limiting errors in the field …
“Yeah, last weekend was a little rough but UCLA was a great hitting team and we actually learned a lot from them. It was a great experience for us. We definitely need to limit the errors because they cause us a lot of troubles. Losing the four seniors we lost, which were great hitters and produced a lot of runs, we don’t have that ability to score as many runs right now. We have to limit errors in order to keep us in the game.”