Feb. 2014

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Page 44 of 58

45 In 18 days, Iowa will be in South Carolina for its season debut. e Hawkeyes will take on UNC Greensboro, Presbyterian, Ohio and the Gamecocks — members of the Southeastern Conference who have made 15 NCAA postseason appearances. Iowa follows opening weekend with five games at the Getterman Classic against Lipscomb, East Carolina, UAB, Baylor and Drake. Tournament host and preseason No. 18 Baylor punched a tournament ticket and competed in the NCAA Regional a year ago. Aer a three-game series at Mississippi State, the Hawkeyes continue their road swing at the University of Arizona Tournament where Iowa will clash with Valparaiso, Texas-Arlington, Longwood and the eight-time national champion Wildcats. e Hawkeyes head to Texas for their final preconference stretch where they will tangle with the Longhorns — preseason No. 10 pick and five-time Women's College World Series qualifiers — and Texas State. e Hawkeyes want to establish positive momentum to start the season and maintain their edge through the Big Ten slate to punch their first ticket to the NCAA Regional since 2009 and restore a winning culture for Iowa soball. "Iowa used to be one of the predominant teams in the country," Looper said. "We want to get back there. ere is no reason we can't compete for a Big Ten championship or a regular spot in the postseason." Won't Back Down By Jil Price S ome teams take the first few weeks of the season to form as a team against lesser opponents, but the University of Iowa soball team takes a different approach. e Hawkeyes begin their season by taking on the best, and rely on the challenging preconference slate to fuse and solidify their squad for Big Ten Conference action. Playing the best has afforded the Hawkeyes some positive results as they posted six victories over ranked opponents — No. 11 Louisiana- Lafayette (13-10), No. 15 Stanford (7-6), No. 24 Oregon State (9-3), No. 11 Louisville (6-2), No. 21 Kentucky (3-1), and No. 19 Nebraska (6-2) — during the 2013 season. Fourth-year head coach Marla Looper believes the team's ability to achieve successful results when going cleat-to-cleat with the best will help the 2014 squad's approach. "e best part about it is that it isn't intimidating for the girls," Looper said. "We try to play the toughest schedule from the beginning of the season. If you play the best and you start beating the best, then you become the best. I don't want to back down from those great teams, and I don't want the team to back down from those great teams. at is how you become the team that people want to knock off. "Getting on the field with some of those teams has given our team a lot of confidence. It shows us that we can be in the game with them. We put in the same time that they do, put on our cleats the same way, and have the same opportunity that they do. When we started knocking them off, it added more fuel to the fire. It allows them to step on the field confident in their abilities to compete with anybody."

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