Getting shutout in four of the team’s first five games was not how Utah Valley softball and first-year head coach Nikki Palmer wanted to begin their season.
The Wolverines dropped all five of their games at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, but they know they won’t be defined by their rocky start.
“We came out a little tight, a little nervous in the first weekend and didn’t get an opportunity to show anybody, really, what kind of potential and talent we’ve got,” Palmer said.
Nine freshmen make up nearly half of the 21-player roster, which is determined to maintain its focus on its big-picture expectations despite the unfavorable results.
“The ultimate goal is to win the WAC,” Palmer said. “In order to do that we need to continue to get stronger with each game.”
A big component to improving for UVU is allowing the youngsters to get playing experience. The team is made up of only three seniors, the underclassmen outnumbering third and fourth year players 12-9.
The influx of newcomers is always a challenging integration, and Palmer said the Wolverines are still learning about who they are.
Playing their first 27 games in 2014 on the road could be seen as a trying portion of the schedule, but being in unfamiliar settings while spending every meal and moment off the field together allows for the mix of newcomers and veterans to quickly become acquainted with one another.
“I think being at home there are more distractions,” Palmer said of the away slate. “It’s evident that they’re continuing to get stronger as a unit, as a family.”
She added that the team’s approach at the plate didn’t need to change to score more runs, but the ability to remain positive despite adversity and paying closer attention to counts and specific hitting situations would help UVU get better offensively.
Following the Red Desert Classic, the Wolverines were in Las Vegas for five games Feb. 14-16. The event featured opportunities for UVU to match up against Big Ten opponent Ohio State, as well as Long Beach State, UNLV, Toledo and Boise State.
“If you’re playing up and playing the better teams, versus the weaker teams, you’re always going to get better, you’re going to learn more about yourself and you’re going to set the bar higher,” Palmer said. “The idea is once we get into WAC, that strong competition that we faced in the preseason will just set us in an advantage.”
Every member of the team is also assimilating to a new culture, as Palmer and her three assistant coaches are teaching a system different from that of their predecessors.
Wins are the common denominator of success in athletics, but in a transitional season replete with difficulties associated to the changes, one shouldn’t overlook the obstacles the Wolverines are presently tackling.