Preparations Underway for 2016 Kansas Softball Campaign
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Just over a month stands between Kansas softball and its 2016 campaign and while most students are enjoying the final days of the semester break, the Jayhawks are back on campus gearing up for the season.
Sunday marked the official start of practice for KU, while the pitchers and catchers returned to Lawrence and hit the field on Friday. The Jayhawks will spend the next week dusting off the cobwebs and bonding as a team before the spring semester gets started on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
“We use our preseason camp to come together as a team and everything is team-oriented,” said head coach Megan Smith. “We are together all the time for the week and a half and it’s a great opportunity for us to set goals and commit to those goals. Then, put in the work and lay the foundation as we move into the season. Team camp is just as much about team chemistry and bonding as it is about softball fundamentals.”
After a successful two days of pitcher/catcher camp, the rest of the Jayhawks returned to Rock Chalk Park to kick off the season preparation with a run test bright and early Sunday morning.
“The first couple days went really well,” Smith said. “It’s great to devote two full days to pitchers and catchers getting them ready. We had a lot of energy and they worked really hard in those two days, but we were all excited to welcome everyone else back.”
Following the conditioning assessment, Kansas hit the batting cages in groups to work on hitting techniques. In the afternoon, KU switched its focus from offense to team defense. The Jayhawks ended the first day of camp with a team meeting to discuss goals and key values to follow throughout the 2016 season.
“The first day is all about shaking off the rust and everyone has done pretty well,” said senior infielder Kylee Kennedy. “It’s a long week and everyone is prepared for it.”
To aid in the team’s chemistry, the Jayhawks will complete a program that is designed to build better leaders and more cohesive teams through physical tasks to be finished as one unit.
“In just three days, I’ve gotten so much closer to the other pitchers,” freshman pitcher/utility Ania Williams said. “I learned things that I didn’t know before, so we are all starting to get so close because we are with each other in the locker room and at meals.”
Kansas will change gears from team chemistry and bonding back to softball fundamentals on Monday afternoon. The Jayhawks will split time between prepping their offense and defense for the upcoming season. KU will work in smaller groups and positions and as a team as well as hold team meetings and captain meetings throughout the week to continue discussions on goals for 2016 and how to achieve as a group.
Even as temperatures dropped to less than favorable to be on the diamond, the Jayhawks haven’t missed a beat. Not only did Kansas softball get a brand new field at Rock Chalk Park, but also an indoor facility just beyond the right field fence. Despite freezing temperatures and chilly winds, Kansas has been able to work on both offense and defense in the indoor facility.
“Having our own indoor (facility) is unbelievable for us because, obviously, the last few days have been chilly and we’ve been able to get everything we need to done,” Smith said. “We don’t miss a beat with that and are really lucky to have a facility like that.”
During the 2015 fall slate, the Jayhawks went a perfect 8-0 at Rock Chalk Park. Kansas completed a month of team practices in October in between match-ups against local softball programs. The fall was the first chance for the Jayhawks and the coaching staff to hit the field together at the same time since the start of the school year.
“It’s way more intense now than in the fall,” Williams said. “What the coaches expect from you is much higher than in the fall. With me being a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect.”
In addition to Williams, KU welcomes eight other newcomers to the squad for 2016 while returning 16 letterwinners and seven starters who helped the Jayhawks to their second-straight NCAA Tournament appearances last season. Among those returning to the diamond in Crimson and Blue are All-Big 12 First Team selection Chaley Brickey and Big 12 co-Freshman of the Year Daniella Chavez.
Kansas softball opens its 2016 campaign in Florida at the Jacksonville Invitational Feb. 12-14, hosted by Jacksonville University. The Jayhawks will play a total of five games during the first weekend of the year against North Carolina State, Jacksonville, Coastal Carolina and North Carolina-Greensboro.
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