Wisconsin’s coaching staff expects infielder Karla Powell to become a more vocal leader since 14 of 19 players are underclassmen.[/media-credit]

With the beginning of spring tournaments, the Wisconsin softball team has one problem: winters in Wisconsin don’t yield fully to spring until April.

With the team being largely confided to using indoor facilities, first year head coach Yvette Healy and her team look for improvement early in the season.

“We don’t look at the wins and losses in these early tournaments; it’s more about getting better and actually being outdoors,” Healy said. ” If you’re a cold weather school you haven’t been on the dirt yet, so we had some errors last weekend. It didn’t bother me much, I was looking for improvement from our players in every game.”

In a team marked largely by youth with 14 of the 19 players being underclassman, Healy has made an emphasis on consistency and improvement to her players.

“We always want to be successful but you know its not going to be perfect right away,” said senior outfielder Jennifer Krueger. “The main thing is to build on every game and never give up. If you’re winning by 10 or losing by 10 you should have that same mentality.”

Krueger also understands that the success the Badgers hope to achieve starts in the time they aren’t spending on the diamond.

“The most important thing is to focus and perform every rep in practice like it’s in a game,” she said. “Even though we’re practicing inside we can still get a lot of reps because we have a nice facility. The main thing is to consistently focus, because if you don’t do it in practice you won’t do it in a game.”

The Badgers are returning eight of their nine starters, as well as junior infielder Karla Powell. Along with Krueger, Powell is another one of the few upperclassmen on the team, learning her new role as a leader.

“Well as the coaches told me this year they want me to be a leader,” Powell said. “I need to be loud on the field and in the dugout, making sure everyone’s up for every game and keep everything on and off the field going right.”

Krueger remembered the days when she was a freshman, learning everything and getting used to the balance of being a student-athlete.

“I know this is all new for them, and this is another day for me,” Krueger said. “I stay as calm as I can, and I try to be there for my teammates whenever they need help or have questions, because I remember when I was their age it was a big adjustment.”

Freshman pitcher Cassandra Darrah says the upperclassmen’s effort is always visible and a big reason for success they will experience.

“The seniors and juniors are very supportive to all the younger players, including myself,” Darrah said. “I know they’d help me with anything, and it helps we all hang out a lot off of the field.”

“I think overall our team has a lot of good chemistry,” Powell said. “We hang out 24/7. We’re a tight knit group, and I think that plays in our favor a lot. When you know your teammates that well it only helps when you’re next to them on the field.”

The close-knit bond and chemistry the team shares has only grown as the team returns 13 of its 16 letter winners from the year before.

“It’s a huge difference most of the girls have a year of experience under their belt, and they know what they’re doing,” Krueger said. “We know each other as teammates a lot better and makes the game have a better flow.”

While the team returns many of its players, it has received a new head coach in Healy. Healy knows the road ahead she faces in changing the culture and success of the program will take time, but she expects to achieve multiple successes through the year.

“It’s a process, you’re not going to go from zero to 60 right away,” Healy said. “You have to get a little better each year. At first you have to be ranked in your region, then a team in the top half of the Big Ten. We’re really focusing on getting over .500 every year, getting in the tournament and making some noise.”

“Consistency is a big thing for us. We had a great opening weekend, but this weekend we will be facing some phenomenal competition. It’s going to be really tough to stay consistent and play above our ability again. It was great the first weekend to overachieve and play at that high level, but to stay consistent will be the real challenge.”