LINCOLN — Nebraska senior Brooke Thomason, like every softball veteran, knows how easy it can be to lose your edge in the winter.
The snow, the wind chill, the sunless days — that’s not exactly softball weather. And there are no weekend road trips to break up the practice routine. No games to boost the enthusiasm.
It’s why Thomason is grateful that seven freshmen joined the Huskers this fall. Because when coaches and upperclassmen are focused on teaching, there’s less room for team-wide complacency. Even if the lesson is intended for a newcomer, that constant emphasis on the game’s finer details tends to boost everyone’s work ethic, Thomason said.
“This is the part of the season where (you can) get caught up in practices and not take full advantage of the practice time,” she said. “But I haven’t felt that. Every day we have a lot of positive energy.”
They shouldn’t have any trouble finding a reason to get excited now.
The season starts Friday at the Hotel Encanto Invitational in Las Cruces, N.M. The Huskers will face the tournament’s host, New Mexico State, in their second game Friday.
NU won all five games in Las Cruces last year.
It’s certainly not the opening weekend of a year ago, when the Huskers faced two top 15 opponents (Washington and Arizona) in their first two games.
That kind of top-level competition is on the schedule this year, eventually — Nebraska plays at Arizona on Feb. 15 before matching up against three Women’s College World Series teams (Oklahoma, Oregon and California) a week after that.
“We are trying to build some momentum,” coach Rhonda Revelle said.
A team that will likely be relying on several inexperienced players in key spots could use a little confidence. Especially after last season, when it finished third in a down year for the Big Ten and failed to make the NCAA tournament.
As many as five freshmen — outfielder Kiki Stokes, pitcher Emily Lockman, and infielders Hailey Decker, Dawna Tyson and Alicia Armstrong — could make immediate impacts for NU. Junior Tatum Edwards, who pitched sparingly over the last two years, is expected to be the team’s new ace.
“The biggest question’s going to be, how do they handle their emotions?” Revelle said. “That’s what we’re working on a lot as a staff.”
Thomason and the three other Husker seniors have tried to help. They don’t mind stopping a fast-paced practice to explain a drill or a new play.
There’s still an adjustment, but Thomason said the young group has responded well.
“They are a little lost at times, but they’ve done a really good job,” she said. “They help us stay focused. We’re always learning.”
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