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MSU ready to build on last season

January 19, 2013

Members of Mississippi State's softball team celebrates between innings last season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

The Mississippi State softball program experienced the winningest April in school history last spring.

That run helped the Bulldogs springboard into the postseason and head coach Vann Stuedeman became one of only two first-year head coaches to take her team to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

MSU enjoyed a 13-2 record in April and a 12-game winning streak that continued into May so there was definitely some momentum built toward the end of last season.

It is something that Stuedeman hopes MSU can carry on into this season, but it's really not about the past, but what it can do today.

"Everything is a process," Stuedeman said at the team's preseason media day on Friday. "Today plus today plus today equals this season and thus your career. I hope the players build on last year. The experience and relationships built, conditions of the program and expectations we built, I would hope would remain with them and they use that to build on today plus today plus today equals a season thus a career. We hope they use it as a stepping stone."

Mississippi State finished with a record of 33-24 last year and made the ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.

Even though the Bulldogs were sub-.500 in the Southeastern Conference at 12-16, they still had the most wins since 2008.

MSU senior outfielder Jessica Cooley said the coaches have done a good job "of keeping it a competitive atmosphere," and believes it has shown during the offseason.

"They have done an awesome job of keeping us hungry," Cooley said. "We have set such higher expectations this year."

Stuedeman. the winningest first-year head coach in Bulldog history, realizes that it can be much tougher for a coach in the second year than the first, so she is prepared to take one day at a time and deal with situations as they occur.

As the season approaches, Stuedeman has watched the squad take that same approach.

"The girls have been just as eager," Stuedeman said. "Last year, there was such a newness about everything, but it's about how much more can we learn and an eagerness to represent. They want to prove themselves beyond what they've been able to do in a short period of time with the new people. The newness is still there. Everybody is working extremely hard."

MSU returns some key players at important positions with pitcher Stephanie Becker, catcher Sam Lenahan and Cooley.

"We have a year of experience now with the new coaches," Cooley said. "Everybody is going to be able to step up and do what they need to do. That's what is so great about this team. There are no selfish people here. You want the other person to succeed and everyone is giving 100 percent."

The Bulldogs begin the season against South Alabama on Feb. 7 at home. MSU set a record attendance record at its softball stadium last season.

Stuedeman said the pieces are coming together for the Bulldogs to enjoy another productive season, and is looking forward to seeing how those pieces fit together.

"It's promising on paper so we'll see what we can do to earn it," Stuedeman said.

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