Indiana Softball - A Tradition of Success
Oct. 2, 2006
Tradition and Indiana University Athletics are synonymous. The IU softball program is no exception to that standard. In the program's 33 seasons, the Hoosiers have claimed three Big Ten Championships and made four trips to the Women's College World Series. After a thrilling 2006 season in which IU earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years, Indiana is building on this momentum as inspiration for the future.
Last season, the Hoosiers set five all-time team records, while four individuals combined to set 24 hitting and pitching marks. Finishing the year 30-25-1, the team reached the 30 win plateau for the 13th time in program history that enjoyed successful runs in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament.
The successes of the 2006 campaign are customary of IU softball. Throughout the years, Indiana softball has risen through the ranks as one of the nations strongest programs. In fact, many of the college game's most influential players and coaches have called themselves Hoosiers at one point in their career.
Current Big Ten head coaches such as Michigan's Carol Hutchens, who claimed a national championship in 2005, Indiana Athletics Hall of Famer and Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins and Michigan State head coach Jacquie Joseph have all called Bloomington home at one point.
Phillips, who played at Michigan State and earned All-America honors in 1998 for the Spartans, understands the impact that her fellow Big Ten coaches have had on the face of the game.
"I think as a player, I never realized as much as I do now that the coaches in the Big Ten who are my mentors have molded what the game into what it is today," Phillips said. "Often times, players assume the support they receive has always been there, and that's not the case."
Hoosier greats such as All-American and gold medalist Michelle Venturella, Jen McIntyre, Brook Monroe and Kim McKeon have all proudly donned the Cream and Crimson, before moving on in their softball career at the coaching level.
Currently, Venturella is Blevins' associate head coach at Iowa, McIntyre is an assistant at Penn State, Monroe, who was the Portland State head coach, is an assistant at Kentucky and McKeon was an assistant at MSU.
All of these Hoosier softball alums have utilized their first-class experience at IU as their springboard to success at the next level, while molding the IU program into what it is today.
"A lot of great Hoosiers that are elsewhere now, gained a one-of-a-kind experience at Indiana," Phillips said. "They have been able to help IU see what softball can actually be here, because it truly is a gold mine."
The storied tradition is on of IU's greatest assets.
"In the past several years, we have tried to make a really strong connection with our program's alums," Phillips said. "We have made those relationships a priority, not to save face, but we feel that they are a very big part of our program. Without there countless hours of hard work, this program would not be in the position that it is in. It's important that our former players understand they are a part of this program just as much today as they were when they played here. When we win, they win. Our staff and administration believe IU softball is going places."
Phillips, who has spent time coaching in and out of the Big Ten, credits the Indiana Athletics administration for their support and belief in the continual building of tradition at IU.
"This is a great place," Phillips said. "I love being a Hoosier. There is great tradition that we can build on. Our administration is truly helping every program at Indiana excel. As long as we have that kind of support, we can prepare our student-athletes for championships."
The unwavering support the softball program has earned over the years is evident in the Indiana Board of Trustees' unanimous approval of an athletics facility enhancement plan that includes a state-of-the-art softball facility.
"With the new facility, we are going to find that we are going to garner much more respect from our opponents, our fans and our recruits," Phillips said. "Last year, we had a great number of supporters that came out to our games last year, and because of the size of the current stadium, didn't have a place to sit. It's a good problem to have, but it's a problem we won't have the future."
Indiana softball will honor the past in its quest for future success.
"Fifteen years ago, the new softball stadium proposal wouldn't have been a topic of discussion, and now that facility is a reality," Phillips said. "That is a true testament to all the great people associated with this program."
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