February 2016

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203 A er three weeks of practice, the University of Iowa soball team is ready to make it happen on the field. "Our theme for the season is Make it Happen," said UI head coach Marla Looper. "It's time to stop talking about what we want to do and actually make it happen. Our team is doing a pretty nice job of that so far." Following a 17-39 regular season in 2015, the Hawkeyes made noise at the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa (No. 10 seed) overcame a three-run deficit against seventh-seeded Rutgers to win the opening round of the tournament. e next day, the Hawk- eyes shut out second- seeded and 12th-ranked Minnesota to advance to the semifinal, marking the program's deepest run in the conference tourna- ment since 2008. e Hawkeyes return eight of nine starters from last season, including redshirt junior Sammi Gyer- man who hit .326 and scored a team-high 42 runs for the Hawkeyes in 2015. Redshirt senior Holly Hoffman and junior Kaitlyn Mullarkey each hit .261. With so many returnees, Iowa hopes to build off of its Big Ten Tournament momentum in 2016. "e Big Ten Tournament was finally that last step we needed to have that confidence," Gyerman said. "It definitely gave us the punch we needed to see that we can really compete with anybody." Mullarkey agrees. "e fight and intensity that we had in the Big Ten Tournament is something that we need to have more consistently throughout our whole season," said Mullarkey. "Obviously we have a new team and we need to move on from last season, but that fight is something we need to remember." Last year's ace, redshirt junior Shayla Starkenburg, will have more company in the circle this season. Senior Jillian Navarrete and three of the team's five newcomers — junior transfer Elizabeth Wiegand (Tennessee-Martin) and freshmen Erin Riding and Mallory Kilian — could all see action this fall. "We have five new people this year that can all contribute quite a bit," said Looper. "ey all have the potential to do so. Our returners have been able to work with them pretty deeply." With the 2016 season a week away, Looper is encouraged by what she sees. "When we bring energy and pure grit to practice, we are fun to watch," Looper said. "I get goose bumps and chills watching them when they are sharp and crisp. If we get to the point where we can bring that consistently, then we are going to be tough to beat." e Hawkeyes begin the 2016 season with five tournaments on the road, beginning with the Tex- as A&M-Corpus Christi Tournament from Feb. 12-14. e squad opens Big Ten play in Blooming- ton, Indiana, for a three-game series against the Hoosiers from March 25-27, before opening its home slate against Drake on March 30. FEBRUARY SCHEDULE Feb. 12-14 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Tournament Feb. 19-21 at Rosemont Tournament Feb. 26-28 at Coastal Carolina Tournament

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