They are small in number, but big on confidence.
The Lipscomb Lady Bison softball team opened practice Monday afternoon in preparation for the 2012 season. Coach Kristin Ryman will only be working with 15 players this season, but her players are confident they can improve on last year’s second place finish in the Atlantic Sun Conference and earn their second NCAA Tournament berth.
One of the major keys to the season will be the health of the team.
“Everybody is back and doing fine,” Ryman said. “We had a couple of players who were banged up near the end of the fall that are trying to still get through a few things.
“We had our first workout and we are in a very good spot right now. That was very encouraging.”
Ryman doesn’t plan to change the preparations of the players in an attempt to avoid injuries.
“The biggest thing is to constantly remind them that there are 15 of them and not 20,” Ryman said. “Our depth is good, but our depth is limited.
‘They have to be aware of that with everything that they do and every decision that they make on or off of the field. We just don’t need any silly injuries. It’s part of the game if they dive for a ball and injure a knee. That is something we will work through if it happens. We want them to be smart.”
The Lady Bison finished the 2011 season with a 30-20 record, 15-5 in the A-Sun. They finished in second place during the regular season and lost to Jacksonville in the A-Sun Championship game.
“They understand what is at stake and what they need to do,” Ryman said. “You can tell they weren’t satisfied with last year. It is a really good thing we are at that point with our program. If they don’t finish first there is that feeling that they didn’t do everything they could do.
“This year they have thrown everything out the window. This is a new group. They have a little different mentality. They have a little bit of a chip on their shoulders. They are anxious for the challenge. We are going to make the most of it.”
Ryman is pleased that the team has high expectations for this season. It is always easier to motivate a team that wants to excel.
“They have been extremely good in how they work with each other on the field,” Ryman said. “They go and do extra stuff on their own all the time.
“We have seen a big difference in their confidence level. All of our freshmen from last year have more experience under their belts. They are more mentally prepared. They are more ready to make a statement this year.”
The Lady Bison open the season at the Mardi Gras Tournament in Mobile, Ala., Feb. 10-12. They will play Jacksonville State and South Alabama as well as Mississippi State and Alabama from the Southeastern Conference.
“They are not going to get overnight results,” Ryman said. “They shouldn’t expect that.
“What they should expect is this is going to be a grind. It is going to be a process the entire year.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.