Jan. 16, 2006
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
It may only seem like the Florida State University softball just finished the 2005 season at the Auburn Regional, but the girls of summer commenced the 2006 campaign with their first team practice on Monday (January 16).
The only coach in history of the game with more than 1,300 wins, Dr. JoAnne Graf starts her 28th season as the Seminoles’ dugout boss. Florida State goes into the new season – which begins Friday, February 10, with the Early Bird Tournament at newly named JoAnne Graf Field – with seven position starters back and one returning starting pitcher.
Every week leading up to the beginning of the season, www.seminoles.com will preview each facet of the 2006 squad. Here is the first installment:
Illness. Inexperience. Inconsistency.
The three I’s aren’t excuses, but instead will serve as the explanations for the improvement the Florida State University softball team makes in 2006. The Seminoles come into the 2006 campaign a healthier and more experience team that is looking to recapture the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference mountain and return to the Women’s College World Series.
It might be a bit early for head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf and her team to book a trip to Oklahoma City in June, but history is in their favor. Last season was the first since 1989 that Florida State posted less than 40 victories. What happened in 1990? Nothing except a third place finish at the WCWS. Following 2003, the first sub-50 victory win season of the millennium, the 2004 Seminoles responded by winning 62 games and returned to the WCWS. Since 1990, in the four seasons following sub-50 win years, Florida State has averaged 57 wins the next season and improved by an average of 12 games.
Continuing the historic theme, if the Seminoles hoist the ACC Tournament trophy in Chapel Hill, N.C. in mid May you heard it here first. The last time Florida State did not win the ACC Tournament (2002) it responded by going a perfect 8-0 in the league and winning the tourney by outscoring its opponents 25-6 in just three games. The last time FSU didn’t hold at least a share of the regular season crown was 1998. The Seminoles’ response? Win or share the next six.
Want the historical topper? The 35 wins in 2005 are the lowest since the 1980. The Seminoles ended the 1981 campaign by hoisting the AIAW National Championships trophy. Oh by the way, it’s the 25th anniversary of that team. Maybe history is on the Seminoles’ side in 2006.
Quotes from the first day
Head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf:
On starting her 28th season:
“Every year you have different players and that’s what’s so neat about coaching, it’s never the same kids. We have the same coaching staff returning, so that’s nice, but we have new support staff, players and it’s a different year so you never know what you’re going to have. It’s always fun and we do different things every year, we don’t ever pull out a practice plan and go `okay day one we’re doing this from last year, day two, etc.’ We individualize it and adjust to where our players are at that particular year or day. It’s always different, and never boring. There are new challenges.”
On the team’s expectations:
“I think our expectations never waver, it’s always to go to the College World Series and win the ACC Championship. Those are the two quantifiable goals that you have. Obviously as a coach I want to try to get the best out of each player. That’s my goal and if I achieve my goals then the rest of them will follow. We’ve got some hurdles to overcome. We don’t have that dominant speed pitcher. We have good young pitchers, but they are going to have to grow up in a hurry. That’s something they can do and we’re looking forward to them taking the pressure of being in the circle.”
All-American second baseman Veronica Wootson:
On the team’s attitude the first day:
“We’re trying to come out strong, make sure that everybody is positive. Some of the players put notes on our lockers saying `come out strong and work hard’ and that’s probably been our goal in preseason is working hard and giving it our all.”
On having high expectations:
“Of course, especially with eight starters coming back. We learned from last year and we want to come back twice as strong as last year.
Freshman infielder Michelle Snyder.
On starting the season:
“I’m exciting and ready to go. We’ve been working hard in individual groups and we’re ready to get on the field as one team and start the season. There’s a little bit more intensity than in the fall, the games are right around the corner and they’ll be here before we know it.”