Lady Eagles stay humble after National Championship win

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Austin A. Lewis
Student athletes with the University of Southern Indiana’s Women’s softball team practice at the Broadway Sports Complex, Aug. 28, 2018.

The University of Southern Indiana’s Women’s Softball team is digging their talons into a new season. After soaring high from last season with a national championship, the team isn’t letting the win get to their heads or determine how things will go this time around.

“Our kids are very humble, and we aren’t going into it thinking we are too good to stop working,” head softball coach Sue Kunkle said. “There is a bullseye on our back. We have to start fresh with new goals and defend the title at this point.”

Kunkle has been the head coach of the softball team since 2000. This is the first national title the team has brought home under Kunkle’s leadership.

“I’ve always loved the game, but I truly do this for them,” Kunkle said. “They keep me young. When my body doesn’t let me do this anymore then that will be the time to hang it up. But I’ve still got a lot left in me.”

The team itself has evolved since last season. With the addition of eight new players, the team is looking to implement what they attributed to last year’s success as well as add new training material to help set themselves up for another title.

“We always recruit new kids to make our team better every year,” Kunkle said. “We also have a lot of our experience back. We are very optimistic about the knowledge and core we have here. We are pretty excited, I don’t want to jinx us.”

Kunkle attributes the team’s success to the culture of the program.

Not only does the teamwork hard toward their goals, but overall they build strong relationships with each other through training, play and a resilient “refuse-to-lose” player mentality.

“Looking at our record, it wasn’t as great as the other teams that were there, so we went into it with the mindset that we had nothing lose and everything to gain,” Claire Johnson said.  “Going in there with that kind of mindset, I think that’s all we really could have asked for.”

The senior exercise science and kinesiology major, who has seen the team’s ups and downs over the past few years, was more than pleased to weigh in on their success.

She said everyone brought something to the table, whether they were heavy hitters on the field making plays or the players that normally sit on the bench cheering. There wasn’t an aspect of the team that didn’t contribute.

Johnson will be finishing up her collegiate softball career as she mentors the younger crowd coming in.

“It’s been really interesting to see the new people coming in this year,” Johnson said. “They’ve come in with a great mindset. They know what we’ve accomplished in the past two years, and we have just been going hard and working.”

Unit cohesion has been a big priority of the team as well. With the number of players reaching a whopping 18, there has been a lot of effort put toward team building and a general comfortability amongst themselves.

“We are always trying to mix it up,” Kunkle said. “People get bored. We are always trying to be innovative and change things up because we don’t want to get stagnant. We may do some things similar, but we will sure try to change things up too.”

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