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Time to Earn It

LU softball embraces ‘championship mindset’ for new season

Utility player, Kimberly Mattox, practices hitting inside the batting cage during practice at the LU Softball Complex, Jan. 30. UP photo by Cassandra Jenkins
Utility player, Kimberly Mattox, practices hitting inside the batting cage during practice
at the LU Softball Complex, Jan. 30.
UP photo by Cassandra Jenkins

The LU softball team left their 2017-18 season in a disarray. The season saw many ups and downs as they battled through a strenuous year, ending Southland Conference 11-16, losing the last four games and their head coach. This year the team is embracing new traditions, a new schedule and a new head coach — Amy Hooks. 

“Beaumont’s just been open arms,” Hooks said. “They have welcomed me and let me get settled in, and the team has responded really well to the different coaching style I’ve brought and some of the changes I’ve made. It’s been pretty smooth and I’m getting really excited to see all the hard work they’ve been putting in transition onto the field.”

Hooks said she has embraced some of the team traditions but has also started to implement some of her own.

“Some of the things we’ve kept, is that we do competition on Thursday in the weight room between the red and black team,” she said. “Our fitness coach does some kind of fun competition and they have their championship chain they wear to whoever wins. Some of the things we’ve changed is that we’ve embraced a championship mindset — it’s been our kind of motto. We talk about being champions on the field, in the classroom and in the community. We try to embrace that word everyday of being a ‘champion.’ The more you hear it, the more you feel like you belong, the more you are going to be a champion and that’s what we keep telling our athletes.”

Hooks said she tries to find a balance between pushing the team, but also letting them have fun.

“I’m hard on them, but I also know that this is a game and they do it because they love it, so we have fun with it,” she said. “Yesterday, in practice, we had a hitting competition at the end. We broke into two groups and it was just a fun, friendly competition, but they still got to compete, and they were all laughing and cutting up. I push them when they need to be pushed and I love them when they need to be loved on.”

Hooks said a major goal is to ensure that the seniors have a final season to be proud of.

“I want to send these seniors out on a high note, because they’ve given a lot to this program,” she said. “Everybody in the community, and in the softball world, has said this is the rebuild year since it’s my first year as a head coach. I said it from day one, and I say it to the seniors every day — I’m not trying to rebuild. This is their last go-round, they have no other chance and I want to send them out on a high note.

“I want to get back to that tournament and I want to have a chance to win that conference tournament, and they have totally bought into it. They push themselves every day and they push the underclassmen as well.”

The team consists of five seniors, including second baseman Kelly Meeuwsen, infielder Savana Guidry, utility player Maddy Myers, pitcher Julia Voluntad and first baseman Taylor Davis, along with several underclassmen. Hooks said her seniors have been leaders throughout the whole process.

“We have five seniors and each of them lead in their own way,” she said. “They are all in different positions. Some of them are quieter than others and they lead by example and with their work ethic. Others are a little more vocal and they push the team when they need to be pushed. Then again, they like to cut up and they have really fun personalities as well. They all kind of lead differently and it’s really cool to see them step up. Where one might lack, another one succeeds, and to have five different ones do that, you feel like you are in good hands.”

The team has become like family, making the coaches jobs easier, Hooks said.

“We haven’t even played our first game yet and that locker room is loud,” she said. “The music is blaring, they are giggling and laughing. I asked my staff, ‘They know it’s just a practice day?’ But, that’s how hyped they get. They are always interacting with each other. We have some big personalities all over the board, but they are fun to be around — it makes our job easier to be able to go out to practice and be able to teach these young athletes.”

Hooks said she is excited to start the preseason, which kicks off with a tournament in Conroe, Friday, with Wisconsin, Nebraska, Omaha and Texas Tech.

“I’m kind of throwing them into the fire right at the beginning,” she said. “We are facing some big schools and that’s the way I like to schedule. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a schedule when I got here so we had to put a lot more of those bigger schools than we would typically schedule right at the shoot, but we talked about that, too. We are throwing you in the fire and we need to grow from these games, win or lose.”

Hooks said she likes to think of the season in three’s in order to keep the girls focused on the goals in front of them.

“We have the preseason which is going to be really tough,” she said. “Then the conference season is another phase which will be long because the Southland Conference is getting more and more competitive. The last phase is the post season, the tournament run and the NCAA tournament. When you break it up like that, it doesn’t seem so long and spread out, you take it in strides and make it goal specific for that phase of the season.”

The team is ready for the start of the new softball season, and Hooks said she can’t wait to see them compete.

“We talk about competing a lot,” she said. “I want them to be successful. I want them to taste success. We keep telling them that we are going to have ebbs and flows. We are going to have down time during the season, and we’ll have some high times. So, it’s all about how we are going to handle that.

  “The team went through a lot last year, but they have put that behind them since day one. This is a clean slate and a new season, and that’s the way we want to approach it. We want to get back to the tournament. We don’t even want it to be a question about whether Lamar is going back to the tournament or not. They belong there, and I want them to know they belong there.

“We want to do something that’s never been done at Lamar, and that’s winning regular season conference and win the tournament. If we could do both of those that would be great. If we could do one that would be great, but that’s what we are trying to build here and that’s what I want them to know.”

Lamar plays Wisconsin, Friday, at the Scrap Yard Tournament located at 29607 Robinson Road in Conroe. First pitch is set for 11:30 a.m. For a complete schedule and ticket prices visit lamarcardinals.com.

Story by Cassandra Jenkins, UP editor

Category: Sports