April 2013

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A Commitment to Expectations By Patrick Sojka The University of Iowa softball team opened the 2013 campaign in strong fashion. The Hawkeyes started 17-6, marking their best record in their first 23 games since starting 18-5 during the 2009 season. neutral site wins against Oklahoma State and Ohio State, among others. Iowa's winning percentage (.739) through the first 23 games ranked among the top 12 percent in the country. Last season, head coach Marla Looper led Iowa to a runner-up finish in the Big Ten with a 16-8 mark — the program's highest finish since winning the league title in 2003. The Hawkeyes added road wins at No. 11 Louisville and No. 21 Kentucky during their spring strip, giving the team five victories over top-25 teams prior to the start of league play. This year, the expectations have been clear from the outset: win the Big Ten title and secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. "Expectations, and belief in those, and the willingness and desire to reach and surpass those, is why we have been successful," said Looper. So far, so good. Iowa's April slate is loaded with conference games. The Hawkeyes host newest league member Nebraska (April 5-7) in Iowa City before traveling to Northwestern (April 12-14). "It is a commitment to expectations, and expecting more of themselves," said Looper on the reason for the fast start. "Not someone else's expectations, but their own. They believe in what they are doing. The coaching staff has tried to make this team feel like they have ownership of their team. "From the beginning, we have talked about this being their team, and what do they want out of it. We have set some expectations and standards for the program, and then we let them set their own expectations as long as they fit within the program standards. They have, and now they want more." The Hawkeyes have beefed up their NCAA resume with quality wins during preseason tournaments. Iowa registered winning records during all of its first five tournaments, defeating three ranked foes (No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette, No. 15 Stanford, No. 24 Oregon State). The Hawkeyes won at Houston and earned No. 8 Missouri comes to town for a doubleheader on April 17 before Iowa heads to Michigan, April 19-21. The Hawkeyes host Illinois on April 23 at Pearl Field in a doubleheader. Both games will be shown live on BTN. After a trip to Northern Iowa on April 25, Iowa hosts Penn State, April 26-28, in its final conference home series. The Hawkeyes will be confident entering league play. Iowa won its last five conference series a year ago, and 11 of its final 15 Big Ten games. "I am excited because I like the competitive fire that our team has," said Looper. "That is what is going to allow us to continue to reach and surpass our expectations and the goals we have set." 23

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