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Ahead of season opener this weekend, LA preaches team-first mentality and no matter what, just COMPETE.

Mizzou Links for Wednesday, February 7, 2024

It’s softball season, babyyyyyyy!

And I am E-X-C-I-T-E-D. First off, I must say a big ol’ WELCOME BACK to my bud and former colleague-turned colleague once again, Brandon Haynes, who will be helping me with softball coverage this season. To say I’m excited is an understatement. Brandon, as you are well aware from his Rock M beat writer days of yore and his recent work at the Missourian, is a helluva writer, and he is one of very few I would trust in this important undertaking as he has witnessed firsthand how Rainman-esque I get about my coverage. That is, after all, how we met, and how I decided he needed to be a part of Rock M in the first place. [You’re welcome]

Enough about him; this isn’t about Brandon, though you’ll be reading some softball coverage from him in the coming days. This is about the TEAM, as Larissa Anderson told us on Tuesday morning.

Whenever coaches bring this up, it reminds me of one of my favorite sports quotes ever, from the great Mia Hamm (whom I’m pretty sure I quoted during the season last year):

“I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”

This, above all else, was what was running through my head during Tuesday’s talk. I only wish I’d been able to ask about it. (Side note: Those of us on Zoom — 5 or 6 of us total — weren’t allowed to ask questions, apparently, or else I would have asked about this. BOOOOOO, ERIC. BOOOOOOO).

Anyways... back to LA preaching teamwork.

“We have a team-first mentality, in that we need individuals to be successful,” she said. “But if they’re putting themselves ahead of the team's success, we’re not going to be successful. So it was refocusing all of that energy into [that] mentality.”

She continued, “If you focus on the team, then you’re not going to be so caught up in your playing time, your stats, the pressure of you in that situation. You’re doing everything for the success of the team.”

Yeah... so that Mia Hamm quote fits perfectly.

This offseason was spent, despite the large number of returners, returning to that “team” mentality. They did a lot of things together, from paintball, to going to the movies, to yoga, all to build that closeness and trust.

Why?

“When you trust the teammates to your left and your right, now you start to play for them. Now you’re thinking about each other. And that’s what’s really different about this team... They understand what they’re trying to accomplish and they’re doing it for the right reasons and not just do it for themselves.”

Last season was, let’s face it, a disappointment. You know it, I know it, the coaching staff knows it, and the players know it. But the important thing is, how do you rebound from that? You don’t wallow and feel sorry for yourself. You go back to work and you get better. You play with a chip on your shoulder. You dig in and you get it done. This is ingrained in the culture of Mizzou Softball under Larissa Anderson. From the moment you step in the door. You compete, compete, COMPETE.

“Compete in every single aspect. Compete on the mound, compete in the batter’s box, don’t have easy outs,” she said. “And if we do those things, we’re going to be more successful.”

Hell, even the freshmen know it. Highly touted freshman pitcher Marissa McCann — keep an eye on her, friends — has what Coach described as unbelievable swing and miss movement. And she’s already added to her pitching repertoire and every pitch she throws is a different speed. At Saturday’s scrimmage, she threw a backdoor curveball against veteran Jenna Laird that left her reeling. “I’ve never seen movement like that,” she said. And she’s a FRESHMAN.

It extends to Alex Honnold, now an old-head; a senior who spent the summer playing for Team USA in Japan. She hasn’t grown complacent. She continues to compete, to improve. She’s learning to be versatile in handling both sides of the plate and be more of a student of the game.

“I can tell you,” Anderson said, “This entire preseason, we have had a hard time getting her out. She’s hitting both sides.... understanding how people are going to pitch her and being able to counter-attack that.”

This mentality also, of course, extends to the defense of which Mizzou is known for, as they were the top defensive team in the SEC last season. Anderson expects this to continue, and then some. You compete in the field. Play harder. Play faster. Big risk, big reward.

“We’re stronger than we’ve ever been. We’re quicker than we’ve ever been. And we’ve had a kind of a revamp within our strength and conditioning and trying to build on where our bodies were in the past, just to be more explosive, and I’ve seen that translate into our offense and to our defense, and being able to move quicker to be more explosive and in our movements.”

She continued.

“We’re always going to be a very strong defensive team. But now it’s taking from making routine plays. And now let’s make great plays and take more risks and lay out for more balls. And we might not be successful, but maybe we will. And if we take those risks and we start laying out from our balls and challenging our opponents, then we’re going to be pushing ourselves outside of our own comfort zone and that’s when we’re going to really start to see true success.”

So what does success look like? Well, Brandon is going to touch on that in his piece, so I won’t go too deep into that, but basically, it’s taking it one game at a time and competing amongst themselves. How can they do better? Not focusing on who they’re playing, as we know the SEC, and some of these early season games, are going to be toughies, but focusing on MIZZOU SOFTBALL.

“When we get caught up in what the game means or the pressure of the situation or game on the line. Then we start to get outside of ourselves and it’s just being cognizant of those behaviors and realizing that it is a marathon it’s not a sprint. That this one weekend doesn’t define our team.”

I’ll end with this.

“I’m just tremendously proud of the players that we have in our program right now and their work ethic and all of the preparation they’ve done leading up to our first weekend,” LA said.

BATTER UP.

Oh, and say hi to the Tigers for me, mom & dad.

On to the Links!


Yesterday at Rock M


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