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Offseason Changes Bring Bears New Motivation

Jan 20, 2015

As the 2014 softball season came to an end, so did something else: the nation’s longest active postseason streak, held by Cal softball and one of the game’s winningest coaches in Diane Ninemire. For the first time in 29 seasons, Cal would not be playing for a trip to the Women’s College World Series after a very atypical year for the Golden Bears.

Now, with just a little more than two weeks to the start of the 2015 season, last year’s abnormal performance is fueling Ninemire’s latest squad to reach its fullest potential and bring Cal back to its winning ways.

“Last season definitely gave us a different mindset,” said sophomore Kylie Reed. “We’re focusing more on coming out with a presence and making it known to teams that California is here. We’re really focusing on showing that in our practice as well as the weight room. There are definitely a lot of changes.”

One of the biggest changes for Cal this year is a new pitching coach – the team’s first new pitching coach in more than two decades. Chuck D’Arcy joined the Bears in July of 2014 and was quick to implement his vision among the pitching staff.

“It’s been a very smooth transition. Chuck has done a phenomenal job with the pitchers. More than anything, he’s helped us with the mental side of the game and embracing our position,” said sophomore Katie Sutherland-Finch. “We understand there’s a way he does things and there’s a standard, so it’s very clear what he expects from us and it’s clear what we’re working toward this year.”

Junior Nisa Ontiveros has even taken to adding some of D’Arcy’s quotes inside her glove to remind her of the things she’s learned over the past year.

“Chuck has taught me a lot, especially mentally. I’ve been working on focusing on my game and how I’m going to approach the game,” Ontiveros said. “He had his expectations and made them known, and I think so far we’ve a good job of reaching those expectations and working with them.”

Among the other changes in the offseason was a greater emphasis on team bonding.  Throughout the fall, Cal players made a greater effort than ever before to connect not only on the field, but off the field as well.

“We know a little too much about each other fr having been together for such a short span of time, but it’s great,” joked freshman Taurie Pogue.

To help build their morale, the team did things such as hosting dinners, watching movies and attending brunch together.

“We didn’t just show up – we were present. We did a bunch of different things that really brought us closer together and as far as team chemistry goes that’s going to be a huge factor this year,” said senior Cheyenne Cordes.

“This team chemistry is unlike any other. It’s unique. It has so much passion, and I think as a team we could outweigh any other team when it comes to chemistry,” Pogue added.

The veterans’ emphasis on team chemistry and passion for the game made for an easy transition for the freshmen.

“One of our biggest surprises and an overall improvement to the team has been the freshmen class’ drive,” Sutherland-Finch said. “They came in expecting us to be at a certain level and drove everyone. They’re amazing. They’re such hard workers.”

Pogue agreed.

“I think we definitely set standards for keeping this team up. I know that we have a huge impact on the rest of the team, and we play bigger than we are,” she said. “What we do affects everyone. We have to find a way to lead and find a way to stand out.”

It seems that the offseason has left no gaps in motivation from the Cal softball team. Even after a tiring first day of classes on Tuesday, the team was ready to discuss each individual’s daily goals and practice hard by the afternoon.

“Of course, the big goal overall is to have each player on this team get a taste of what it’s like to be at the World Series, but we’ve all decided as a team that we’re going to start off small, from showing up to every game by being present in the moment and in the right state of mind,” Cordes said. “That’s where it’s going to start.”

As for how that start will shape up in just a few weeks, “We’re all feeling very good coming into season and we’re excited to see what happens in the first weekend,” Sutherland-Finch said.

“We’re coming out with a bang,” Reed added.