Kansas Softball Meets with the Media

LAWRENCE, Kan. – With the 2015 season right around the corner, Kansas softball hosted its annual media day on Thursday afternoon. This year’s media event was held for the first time in the Jayhawks’ brand-new media room at Rock Chalk Park. Head coach Megan Smith and select student-athletes previewed the upcoming season with members of the media.
Smith, who is entering her sixth season at the helm of the Jayhawk softball program, guided Kansas to its first postseason appearance since 2006 and best RPI score (39) during her tenure in 2014. She fields a roster that features 13 veterans, including six starters, and nine rookies in 2015. Adding to its strong group of returners, Kansas welcomes seven freshmen and two transfers.
Below are quotes from Smith, junior infielder Chaley Brickey, senior infielder Chanin Naudin, senior pitcher Alicia Pille and senior utility Maddie Stein.
Kansas Head Coach Megan Smith
Opening Statement:
“Thank you guys for being here. It’s exciting to have media day here at the brand-new Rock Chalk Park. I think this is by far one of the best facilities in the country for softball. Before, at our old field, it was nice, but when we went to all the other fields we wished we’d had what they had. Now we are so excited to open up this season in a brand-new park and in such a beautiful park. It’s been unbelievable to train for the last few months in the park. We have our own indoor facility, which is great. Although the weather has been nice here, unusually nice, when it hasn’t been we have been able to go right inside. We haven’t had to worry about scheduling issues and its right here in our facility. It’s been awesome to be able to start off the year in Rock Chalk Park.”

On the 2015 captains:
“All four of those ladies will be big time producers this year for our team. Alicia Pille, she is in her senior season here as our starting pitcher. She’s had a great three years and we are looking for her to have her best year yet. She’s had a strong fall and has been looking good in practices, so we are really excited about her. Maddie Stein is a returning starter at first base and maybe catcher. Harli Ridling is out for the year after Tommy John surgery, so Maddie (Stein) and a freshman Jessie Roane will be doing the catching for us. Maddie has had a phenomenal career here offensively and defensively. Last year, she (was on the) All-Big 12 Defensive Team, offensively has been one of our biggest RBI producers, who has always been consistent and steady offensively. Chanin Naudin, our senior third basemen, has always been stellar defensively and offensively is doing extremely well right now with Coach Rittman’s new hitting style. (She’s) looking really confident and looks really good in practices. (She) had a really good fall and as always defensively she is stellar. We look for her to have her best offensive season yet. Chaley Brickey, is our shortstop, she’s a junior now and returns as our most prolific hitter. Last year, she led us in all hitting categories and will more than likely do the same this year. Defensively, she is stellar too, our left side of the infield is one of the best in the country with her and Chanin Naudin.”

On the newcomers:
“In terms of new faces, we have a lot of them. We have nine new faces, so each time we go out we get something different, which is fun and exciting, but a little nerve racking for coaches. We have some great talent in our freshman class and some great talent in terms of transfers. I’m going to mention a couple of the transfers, Briana Evans from Oklahoma. She transferred from Ball State and will be our center fielder and leadoff batter. (She’s) a phenomenal talent, brings speed to the outfield and is a spark plug offensively. She has a great personality who has come in and been the life of our team as a transfer, which is pretty unusual. She’s so much fun to be around and is going to be a fun player to watch this season. Monique Wesley is a pitching transfer from Cal-State Fullerton, who has some injuries in the fall, but has come back really strong here in the spring and has been doing some good work for us. We expect her to pitch quite a few innings this season for us. There are a few freshman I would like to mention. Daniella Chavez she is a freshman from Texas, a big lefty hitter, has had an unbelievable fall and pre-season. We are hoping she is going to bring us a lot of power in our lineup. Our freshman catcher, Jessie Roane who I mentioned earlier, and will more than likely get a lot of catching time. (She’s) very athletic, talented and has done well, improving a lot in her catching skills. She came in as a utility player, so being a full-time catcher is something a little different for her, but she certainly has stepped up and is working very hard. We are really excited about those new players.”

On the 2015 Schedule:
“We have a really tough schedule, which I know you’ve probably looked at. We are really excited about that and right out of the gate we play a pretty tough schedule next weekend with Penn State, Georgia Tech and Arkansas out at the FAU Tournament. We are also going to the defending national champions, Florida, to play two games with them in the middle of a tournament. So, our schedule, we really beefed it up this season to prepare us for Big 12 play. We are challenged early, so when we get to Big 12 play we’ve seen it. Last year, I really think it helped us a lot, playing teams like Kentucky and Nebraska before we got into conference action. I think this year our schedule is just as tough or tougher. We are really excited about the challenge and the Big 12 is going to be tough in softball, like it is every year. We are really excited about our non-conference games that will help prepare us for the tough Big 12 schedule.”

On the toughness of this season’s schedule and if it was a conscious effort to schedule these teams or if the teams they scheduled were playing at a high level:
“I think it is a little bit of both, we specifically sought out Florida because we want to get that exposure to such a talented team, who can compare to Oklahoma, Texas or Baylor. We wanted to get that challenge in early. A lot of times in softball when you sign up for tournaments you don’t know who you are going to play, so some of those were luck of the draw and we got some really good draws. Like in our first tournament, we are really excited that those teams decided to go to that tournament. Certainly, it was an effort for us to challenge ourselves before we get in to the Big 12. It was a conscious decision that we made, some were surprises, but some were definitely teams that we handpicked so that we can challenge ourselves.”

On if she thinks he team is ready for this type of challenge:
“We are going to find out. I think that we have a great veteran group of four (captains), who you are going to hear speak, and have been through it all. Who have been through highs and lows, tough games and easy games. I think that by their leadership, we are really going to rely on them to help us get through that challenge and we also have some really talented young kids who don’t know any better, which is good. So they are going to go in and compete hard expecting to win every game and that’s an exciting thing for us. Having nine newcomers, like I said, is a nerve racking thing for coaches and you don’t know what to expect every day, but I think that’s good. Sometimes they don’t know any better and they come out and they just play. So I think they are up for the challenge and we are going to find out next week when we are up for a really tough weekend and I think those four who are going to speak will talk about how we are up for the challenge.”

On the impact Coach Rittman has had this far:
“What a blessing it’s been to have him on staff. I think with so much experience we are learning so much from him offensively, specifically, our hitters are getting a lot of great insight from him and mentorship. He has such a great demeanor with the team and he related to them even though he is a little bit older. He relates to them very well and is kind of like their dad out there, which is awesome. It’s great to see him interact with the team and I think he just brings a different mindset, which is good with a mix of the mindset we already have. I think our staff has a good balance with myself, Coach Sims and him. I think moving forward he has great game knowledge and he is great with strategy in terms of defensive alignments. He and I have conversations about how we are going to approach things this season and I think he is going to be an invaluable tool during games. It’s a huge honor to have him on our staff and he’s been a great coach. I think our players will say he’s a great person. He’s had such a great career and done such great things, he has done them humbly and has been a great asset to our staff.”

On how much they collaborated with facilities to build the new facility and how much of an edge they gain from the new facility:
“That’s a great question. We had quite a bit of input, myself, Mark and Stanley were able to give our input and tell what we needed. One of the things that was never on the plan was an indoor facility for us. That was a late addition and to me the most important piece of the facility. We were really thankful that they added that to give us the opportunity to train at any point in time, which has been really great.

In terms of amenities, we are in a media room at our field, we had a press tent before. It’s unreal what we have now compared to what we had before. We didn’t have bathrooms, we didn’t have a press box or a concession stand. Now we have a million bathrooms and unbelievable double-deck press box. So like I said before our facility is one of the best in the conference and the country. It’s already made a huge difference in recruiting. Players come and when I ask them what they like about Kansas the first thing they say is our facility, that’s never been the answer before. We are really excited about the doors its opening for us in recruiting. We’ve gotten a few big time commitments here recently, a lot due to how impressive this facility is. It’s not just a building and it’s not just concrete, it shows a commitment to softball, track and soccer. It shows that Dr. Zenger thinks we are important, doing a good jobs and wants to reward our players and coaches and wants us to keep doing well and get better. I think that’s the most important thing about this facility, yes it is nice, but it shows the athletes, myself and the recruits that Kansas cares about its sports and wants us to compete at the highest level.”

On being picked fifth in preseason polls:
“I think that speaks a lot to the depth of the Big 12 and I think top to bottom the Big 12 is one of the toughest conferences in the country year in and year out. We lost some players, but we gained a lot. Being picked fifth is not necessarily a surprise, but we are going to work hard to compete and challenge that. I think it really shows how strong the Big 12 is top to bottom.”
Chaley Brickey // Junior // Infielder
On the mix of newcomers and veterans this upcoming season:
“I feel like the veterans are setting high expectations for the freshmen and they have done a great job of following expectations and taking things serious.”

On what your most excited about this season:
“I am actually excited to see the team come together as a whole. Obviously, we play teams in the fall, but the competition is not as tough as what we are about to face. Getting to see the whole team come together and the newcomers fit in is really exciting.”

Chanin Naudin // Senior // Infielder
On what she is looking for to with this being her senior year:
“I am just excited to play with my teammates. My main goal is to enjoy this season no matter what. I don’t want to focus on getting this many numbers or having this many RBIs. I just want to do the best I can for the team and enjoy it because this is my last year to play and I want to enjoy it.”

Alicia Pille // Senior // Pitcher
On the excitement of being able to play in Rock Chalk Park:
“I’m excited that we have so many nonconference games here. We’ve never had this many nonconference games in Lawrence. I’m excited because now my family and everyone else’s families get to come and see us play more. I can’t wait to see the stands full and everyone finally be seated in them. It’s going to be exciting.”

On being a senior and what you are most looking forward to this year:
“I don’t even know, it feels weird. These four years have passed by so fast and I can’t believe it’s already here. I’m going to approach it like any other year and I just want to do the best I can. I can’t wait to see how the team comes together once we start playing this season and it’s going to be great.”

Maddie Stein // Senior // Utility
On what she is looking forward to her senior season:
“I am looking forward to everything. It is bittersweet but at the same time my career here has been phenomenal. More than anything I am looking forward to getting back to a regional, winning and advancing as far as we possibly can. I think we have the talent and now I think we have the experience and knowledge of what needs to be done to get past a regional. More than anything coming back here in March and being the first kids to play on Rock Chalk Park and it being something special and memorable.”

Kansas softball kicks off the 2015 season against LIU-Brooklyn at the Florida Atlantic Tournament on Feb. 6, the first of 25 road games before opening the home portion of the schedule against Northern Colorado in the Jayhawk Invitational on March 13. All KU home games will be played at the new Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park.
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