Good Sports: Softball Expectations
Published Apr 1, 2011 8:00 AM
In 22 seasons as a UCLA softball player, assistant coach and now head coach, Kelly Inouye-Perez '93 has been part of eight national title teams — including last year's banner. But in 30 minutes of conversation, she barely mentions "winning championships."
Nor does she concern herself with her team's preseason No. 1 ranking ("Rankings are what other people feel about you," she says), preferring to focus on things like the program's family-school-then-softball philosophy; representing "The Four Letters" and a paraphrased John Wooden guiding principle: "Create a masterpiece each and every day."
"That's where our program is right now," Inouye-Perez says. "We have no control over whether we're going to repeat (as national champions) in 2011, but we're going to do everything we can to continue the tradition of excellence at UCLA." But Inouye-Perez is not naïve. She acknowledges that fans expect a national title every year and admits to her own high standards and that the team shares those expectations.
If the 2011 Bruins are going to meet those championship expectations, Inouye-Perez believes it will begin with pitching and defense. Entering the season, the former catcher says she has no obvious ace and plans to mix-and-match her four starters — experienced senior Donna Kerr, hard-throwing junior Aleah Macon, crafty sophomore southpaw Destiny Rodino and "has it all" freshman Jessica Hall — depending on the opponent and hoping the staff peaks for the postseason.
The defense will be anchored by All-American Katie Schroeder in centerfield, whose triple-threat abilities at the plate (she bunts, hits for average and can go deep) are expected to spark the offense, along with GiOnna DiSalvatore, a two-time All-American so versatile she could play second or third base, or in the outfield.
"If we continue to compete, anything can happen," Inouye-Perez says.
"We didn't succeed right away and there was a sense in the softball world that UCLA was done," she explains. "But it doesn't matter what people say. No one remembers who the heroes were, but we all remember what [winning the title felt like]. That was the big thing about 2010 — it felt very familiar. It felt like UCLA softball."