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Volume 70, Issue 79, Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sports

All eyes on the postseason

UH developed a reputation for powerful slugging with a one-sided attack, but after the fall season the Cougars look to be well rounded

By Louie Vera
The Daily Cougar

In her fifth season at the helm of the Cougar softball program, head coach Kyla Holas has her sights set on getting back to the playoffs and winning a conference championship.

"Every year we set out, we try to make sure we take care of that first," Holas said. "Since we got preseason-ranked as second, we don't feel like it's an easier job for us ... (but) were closer than we've ever been to that goal."

Holas said she has the team and the elements to win a conference title.

"By far talent wise, we have the best team that we've had. We signed a really good class coming in as freshmen. They've worked really hard. We had a good fall, so our expectations are higher than they were last year."

Last year the team posted a 39-25 record, the best in the program's four-year history, along with it's first postseason appearance. The experience and confidence have carried over to this season, and Holas said both are important. 

"Anytime you go to postseason you get a taste of what it is like," Holas said. "Just that excitement of being somewhere, that maybe you shouldn't have been, or that you've never been before.

‘So for that group that has been there, they now know what it is all about and it is the driving force behind you. Last year really gave them a good sight of what it's like and where we want to be every year, all the time."

Since its inaugural year, the Cougar softball squad has always been known for its potent and powerful offense, but with added speed of the new team, Holas has a premonition of more than home runs.

"We didn't lose anything really big on offense, but we kind of slowly changed our style of offense," Holas said. "When we first started this program, we hit 60 home runs, and since then they've gone down, but we've developed in speed and won more games.

"So we've made that change from being all power, one dimensional. We now have been able to take the whole side of the game -- speed, singles, doubles -- and we still have our power hitters. So for us, I think offensively you are going to see a more consistent solid game. We're not going to be as one-sided anymore."

Two of the keys to having a successful season will be the young pitching, which includes two freshmen and aggressive play by the five seniors.

"Pitching is going to a big thing for us," Holas said. "We have not been known for our pitching in the past. We signed some great freshman, but they are freshman. So we're really going to have to rely on a new staff that hasn't been here very long. (Freshman Barbie Love) has one of the best changeups in the country, she just has one of those changeups that you can't hit no matter how many times she throws it." 

Holas spoke about the other highly recruited freshman, including pitcher Angel Shamblin.

"(Shamblin) was recruited to be the big dog of the staff. She also tore her (anterior cruciate ligament) this summer. We are taking her carefully along. She is making the progress we want her to take. Of course we would like it to be faster, but I think you will see her more at the end of the season than the beginning."

The other key factor is the performance of the seniors, and Holas said she will be expecting them to carry a big load and take them to a dominant level.

"I expect a conference championship for them because that is something they have set out for since we signed them," she said. "I expect another trip to regionals out of them. They've been there; they know what to do now. And I expect a team that is way more confident and aggressive. I expect us to have a program that when you come out you want to see us. We have kind of been that team that's won and squeaked it out but were going after that dominator mentality now."

Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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