bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the win over Loyola Marymount on Wednesday before you headed to Hawai'i, it was a good performance in what could have very easily been a trap game for your team.
Kathy Rodolph: We gave the kids off on Monday to get ready for the big trip to Hawai'i and being gone for five days during "dead week" (week before finals) and so we were fortunate to get into LA on Tuesday and Loyola let us go over and practice on their field and I felt like we had really good energy in practice and were really excited to play and came out on Wednesday and probably had one of our strongest games of really barreling the ball and had some really solid defensive plays and contributions from everybody. I felt really good about the game.
bc.net: The series at Hawai'i, a tough place to play and you come out on the wrong side of the ledger in all three games but certainly a lot of good things to take away from the weekend.
KR: You know, I'd like to say three losses, we didn't play well, didn't show up, those kinds of things but that's really not what happened at all. They were three great games by two really good teams and we just came up short. I felt like Alex Newman did a great job for us in the circle and kept us in the ballgame. Facing Steph Ricketts and Kaia Parnaby, our offense did very well against them. They had been very stingy with runs in conference. I felt like we had a couple of situations that maybe, an error here or there or a timely hit by Hawai'i and the games could have gone either way. I thought they were very strong battles by both of us.
bc.net: When you look at the series overall, a lot of times when you've been swept you feel like all your momentum has been stopped after the sweep but that really doesn't feel like the case here.
KR: Absolutely. I feel like basically the advantage went to the home team because you had the last at bat. It was kind of one of those things, in going 10 innings in a 3-2 ballgame, very different than the scores here last year. We definitely felt like we matched them pretty evenly. I feel like we had opportunities to win the game, they had opportunities to win the game and we just couldn't hold in the 10th. At the same time we came back and fought very hard on day two and had a lot of things go well. It's a long, really hard trip and it was great for a lot of the kids to see family and to get to play in Hawai'i in front of their families. The stadium was packed, they had 1500 fans and we had a lot of them on our side and Hawai'i had a lot of them on their side. It was probably three of the most intense games that we have played all year. I feel like we grew and we learned from that and got better. I'm definitely glad that we're finishing up the season at home.
bc.net: You mentioned the intensity of the three games and the atmosphere with the 1500 fans, how important was it for your kids to have experienced that as you head into the final home weekend with a chance to win the regular season title and then next week as you head to Fresno for what will be a very intense and competitive WAC Tournament?
KR: The younger kids, the freshmen and sophomores, it was the first time they had made that trip to Hawai'i and freshman catcher Alyssa Ruiz told me, "Coach, these are some of the most intense games I've ever been in in my entire life!" I just kind of jokingly said to her, "Welcome to conference." That's kind of the way that the conference games go. I do think that there's no substitute for that experience. I expect the games this weekend against Boise to be very intense. Obviously Boise is playing very well and I feel like we're playing well at the end of the season too. I think it's exciting to have an opportunity to play for the conference title at home.
bc.net: Ashley Maroda had a very good week. You had mentioned last week that after the Louisiana Tech series she came in to get some things adjusted in her swing and that she belted 10 or 12 straight balls out of the park in practice after the adjustment. It looks like she carried that over into the week.
KR: The exciting thing at the LMU game was Ashley's entire family including her dad, her brothers and her sisters and everybody were able to make that game. Unfortunately Ash's family hasn't been able to see her as much as they would like to out here because of the distance and so she was definitely excited that they were coming and really stepped up to the plate and played a high level of ball. Ashley is a great kid that plays with a ton of heart and you're going to get her best effort every time she goes out.
bc.net: Taking a look at this weekend, it's obviously one of, if not the biggest weekend in Aggie softball during your tenure. You have a chance to accomplish what you've been building towards and that is win the regular season title as well as the number one seed in the WAC tournament with a series victory.
KR: The biggest thing is the season has been what we had hoped and thought it could potentially be. We really want to send our seniors out with a bang and it's senior weekend at home. We'd love to see them go out on top because it's been so instrumental over the last four years in helping to turn this program around and really what we're going to try to do is not try to win the series in one game. We want to win by playing pitch by pitch, whether it's offensively or defensively. We believe that we have a strong team and if we come out and stay aggressive with confidence and within the gameplan and hopefully what we do will be good enough to take care of business.
bc.net: Boise State is obviously very hot coming in and just in the short time they've been in the league, the Aggies and Broncos have a very interesting series history with them already.
KR: We started off last year at Boise in conference and got swept there and it was probably the start of a very very tough conference undertaking last spring and it just really put us on our heals and I don't know that we recovered the rest of the spring. Boise is a very outstanding team, they are going to play with a lot of confidence, they're going to play very aggressive and if you're going to beat them, you have to beat them. Hopefully it's going to be a good matchup with the two and hopefully we see three great games come out of the series. I feel like we're definitely playing with a different level of confidence than last year.
bc.net: In your experience having essentially built a program at New Mexico State, obviously not quite from scratch like Boise State has done with this being just their third year of existence, are you surprised at the level of success that they've had in just a short period of time?
KR: I would expect that with the expectation of Boise football that there's probably very high expectations on all of their programs to be successful and I think success breeds success. Everywhere that I have been, when you have programs that are top rate then all the athletes have a level of expectations that they're expected to meet. So really I'm not surprised. I think they're well coached, I think that Erin does a great job of going after kids that fit into her system and definitely has stayed with the system that she brought in. I think that peer pressure there has really helped them be successful right away.
bc.net: What will yours, Cat and Tiala's emotions be like on Saturday when you take the field knowing that this will be the final home games for these seniors who have been so instrumental in building this program?
KR: I'm hoping that it will be one of pure joy, just to see the seniors recognized on Senior Day with their families and know that we went after some very talented, young kids and get to watch them grow up and see what they've been able to accomplish on the field and then send them off as beautiful women and know that they're going to be able to go out into the rest of their lives and be very confident, self-assured and truly understand that hard work is what has gotten them to where they are today and understand that if they have goals and dreams that if they work for it they'll be able to do anything they want to do.
bc.net: Everyone is very aware of this group's accomplishments on the field but what are some of the things that people don't know about that this group of seniors has accomplished either on the field, off the field or in the classroom and is something that just really makes you proud?
KR: Probably first and foremost, five of the seven are going to be graduating on time in four years which is almost unheard of. One will take one additional semester and one due to transfer will take one additional year.
Kandis Jones was just recognized last week as the most outstanding female athlete at New Mexico State and Kandis from the time that Cat recruited her, her mother's a nurse, her grandmother is a nurse, her aunt's a nurse and Kandis is going to be a nurse. Kandis and Tiff Autry were both accepted into the nursing program starting in the fall which is a huge, huge accomplishment because the nursing program is accepting less and less each year. They'll both be starting int he fall and I'm very very happy for them. Both took care of business in the classroom.
Ashley Maroda definitely came in as a very very shy individual and is going out as one tremendous player and self-confident, self-assured and has just been a joy to be around.
Obviously Hoku Nohara leading the nation in home runs, she came in and struck out 50 times her freshman year and just continued to get better and last year she was First Team All-Region, this year she's leading the nation in home runs. There's probably a strong opportunity to be seeing her play professionally this summer.
Vanessa Valles went from a local kid redshirting because she broke her finger to absolutely being critical in the lineup to competing for a conference title.
Alex Villalobos transferred from junior college to Oklahoma State to here and has been able to come in as a reliever and give us quality innings in the circle and calm things down with a kind of confidence.
Tiffany Autry has battled more injuries than almost anyone you can imagine. She's undergone two extensive shoulder surgeries, one on the right, one on the left. She went into being DP because she's played all four years with a partially torn bicep and has fought through it and is willing to help us in any way she can.
Kylie Randall definitely is a true utility. She's played shortstop, she's played second, she'd played outfield. She has embraced the leadoff role and being the spark to start us off in games and establishing her leadership. Her defense this year, she's made some of the most unbelievable plays that I've ever seen.
I could go on and on and on about this group and about how far they grown and come but most importantly I'm just proud of who they are.
bc.net: A lot of times when you see a big recruiting class like this one is, you don't always see them all finish together, some end up transferring, some might end up not continuing their playing career. What's been the key for this group to stay together and every single one of them has had a significant impact on the field.
KR: It's funny, Cat brought them in as freshmen and took them out to the classroom and told them, "I think that this group is going to turn out to really be something special. You're extremely talented, you have no idea what a presence you're going to be able to make." We talk about it now because as freshmen, they just stuck together, a lot. They ate together in the cafeteria, they hung out together, they studied together, they just built a very, very strong bond. Last year when things weren't going our way and we were really really struggling, they had the courage to get after it again and trust and believe that it could be different this year. They wanted to help in whatever ways we asked them to, to lead to allow it to be different. They're doing a good job of just being themselves and giving courage to everyone else and as a group we're tough to beat.
bc.net: As a group of seniors, how pleased are you with the leadership of this group and their mentoring of the younger players?
KR: I'm very proud of how far they've come and that they're willing to do whatever Cat and I ask them to do. Any times we've had some situations occur throughout the year, we've gotten them together and said, "This is the message you need to send and this is why it needs to be sent and this is how it's going to help the group as a whole." And I feel like they've embraced that and passed that message along to the rest of the group. That's huge, that's what you hope that your seniors will be able to do. Because this senior group is so strong and so committed we have been able to bring along the freshmen and the sophomores so that when this group graduates, it's not going to be like starting over. We're going to have a big group coming in next year but we have a lot of that underclassmen group that has really had to step up and contribute and I think that's been through the expectations of the seniors.