bleedCrimson.net: You had a bit of a tough series at Grand Canyon getting swept but you had mentioned before that Grand Canyon is playing with nothing to lose because they aren’t eligible for postseason and so they’re playing each weekend to prove that they belong.
Kathy Rodolph: It was one of those things that I knew they were going to play well because it was senior weekend and it was their last home event and they had also shown that they were going to go out and try to win every series because that was the best they could do. I felt like the big difference between us and them this weekend was that they just did not make errors and we made a few that cost us. When you’re the visiting team it’s hard to counteract that. Their pitchers handled our top three hitters and that was the first time that’s happened all year and we needed some other kids to step up and carry the load and we just weren’t able to get that fire going.
bc.net: You mentioned last week when we talked that you guys were going to have to play good, solid defense on the weekend to come out with wins. What were some of the struggles the team had in the series defensively?
KR: On Friday night when we ended up losing 2-0 we had a misplayed ball in left that allowed a triple and then I think frustration over the misread on the ball, we had a kid run right through the ball and the ball get to the fence. Not only did that run score then the next run was back on third and then you lose a 2-0 ballgame and you felt like it was more mental than it was physical.
Then on Saturday we were leading 2-1 in the fifth and then I made a change and I brought Celisha in because Makayla was struggling a little bit finding her changeup and then we had back-to-back errors in the middle infield that allowed them to score. Without that I think we would have been able to hold. In hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have changed Makayla because she had only given up four hits. It was a roll of the dice and maybe I guessed wrong.
bc.net: As you look toward this week and the finish of conference play, you had a chance last weekend to close out the regular season championship but obviously it’s still on the table. Is there a renewed focus going into this final weekend?
KR: We know that a lot of things are gong to have to happen for us to win the regular season. We would have to sweep Utah Valley and Seattle needs to sweep Grand Canyon and I’m not sure that’s going to happen. In order for us to go into the conference tournament with the top seed and a first round bye, we need to win one of three games against Utah Valley.
bc.net: Obviously that’s a big goal for you as well.
KR: Yeah and most importantly we’re trying to gather as much information on anybody we’re going to see at the conference tournament because that’s where we want to make sure we’re playing our best ball. For us to have a doubleheader against the U of A on Wednesday night before we fly to Salt Lake to go to Orem (UT), that’s going to be a really tough challenge because the U of A is playing really well. Any time you’re going to play them there it’s definitely going to be tough but if our ultimate goal is to make postseason we already know we’re either going to Arizona for Regionals or Arizona State and I think being able to play them this late in the season definitely gives the kids the idea of what we’re going to have to do if we want to compete and get through a regional.
bc.net: Your team has been playing at a high level the last few weeks and going into this final weekend and looking to get that number one seed, I know you’re playing Arizona in the midweek how beneficial is it to be able to play a couple of games and put last weekend behind you before you head to Utah Valley?
KR: It definitely gives you perspective. Sometimes when you get into conference play and you’re just trying to pick up the next opponent I think you can lose perspective of the level that you hold yourself accountable to play at and I feel like playing Arizona definitely gives persecutive back to what we’re trying to do to make postseason. Arizona is loaded with five solid pitchers this year and they can vary them throughout the two games and I think they’ll prepare us for going in to do battle with Utah Valley.
bc.net: Playing Arizona, it’s a great softball environment, how beneficial is it to be able to play them this late it the season especially as you head toward this weekend playing at Utah Valley and then going to play the conference tournament at Seattle which is obviously a home field for Seattle.
KR: I think that it basically re-centers you for what you need to be doing at this point in the season. I think that we’ve played so many games already that you can lose sight of the most important games which are the ones coming up which are the conference tournament because that’s our only ticket into the postseason this year. Although I was very disappointed that we got swept by Grand Canyon, we have to put it behind us and really come out with a mission to compete with Arizona and to bring our best game and hopefully our best game matches up with their game and anything can happen. That should prepare us to go into Utah Valley with perspective.
bc.net: I think the only home environment that you’ve played in that comes close to Arizona is at Fresno State. Your team has goals to play in the NCAA tournament and if you play in the NCAA tournament you’re going to have to play in a big-time environment like that. How important is it that your kids get that exposure to that type of home environment because a lot of schools never have that chance to play in that kind of environment before the tournament?
KR: I definitely agree and I think that the initial shock factor becomes less when you’ve gotten an opportunity to play in big environments so you’re not so overwhelmed by the fans and the television cameras and the jumbotron and instead you just try to work to keep that hype meter at the right level and just play your own best ball. But unless you’ve experienced it, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
bc.net: After the Utah Valley series you head to Albuquerque to take on New Mexico in the regular season finale for the team before you head to conference play. It’s a rivalry game so you’re ending the regular season with six pretty intense games.
KR: I definitely agree. Cat makes our schedule and finishing with six tough games, all of them on the road before you head to Seattle for the conference tournament definitely keeps definitely keeps you in a very competitive mindset and hopefully that will play off for us in Seattle.
bc.net: Starting with the games on Wednesday in Arizona, what are some things you want to get cleaned up before you head to the WAC tournament in Seattle?
KR: The big thing we want to do is field the routine balls cleanly, come through them, don’t get overwhelmed by the speed of the game and just come through and make a throw. What happened to us is Grand Canyon really chops the ball and they have a solid foundation infield where they can really chop and so you have one shot to really come through the ball and a couple of times we got to them but then kind of stopped and so they kind of ate us up instead of coming through them. We had a good day of practice today and hopefully just from the experience we’ll get better with it.