Ross says team has confidence heading into tough weekend slate

first_img Published on February 20, 2014 at 1:30 am Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossman Last year, when Syracuse departed to Palm Springs, Calif., for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic tournament, a close battle with then-No. 17 Stanford came down to one pitch. A home run by Cardinal shortstop Jenna Rich with one out in the fifth inning broke a 1-1 tie, and the Orange lost 2-1. This time around, SU (2-3) carries a lot of confidence into the same tournament, looking to knock off defending champion No. 18 Oklahoma (6-4) on Saturday and get revenge against No. 13 Stanford (12-0) on Sunday.The Orange will also play University of California, Davis (4-9) and California Polytechnic (4-6) on Friday and Long Beach State (6-4) on Sunday. “I know it’s going to be very good competition for us,” head coach Leigh Ross said, “but I still believe in all my years of coaching and experience that we are a Top-25 program.” AdvertisementThis is placeholder textRoss underscored the significance of the national polls, citing that the frequent fluctuation of the rankings every week makes them more insignificant than one may think.Despite going against hefty competition in Stanford and Oklahoma, she wants her players to go into these games fearless. Players’ voices rang with confidence and it was clear that fearlessness is the mentality the team is taking into the tournament.“Just because they have a number in front of their school name doesn’t really mean anything,” sophomore outfielder Riley Johnson said. “We just have to play true to ourselves.”Both Johnson and junior utility player Mary Dombrowski said they believe the team could play more freely and loosely, feeling that more of the pressure is on a team like Stanford who doesn’t have a blemish on its record this year.Ross and her players maintained that an intimidation factor isn’t very prevalent for them, even knowing that the three losses SU has on the books this year came against teams inferior to Stanford or Oklahoma. “We’re always preparing to face the best,” Dombrowski said, “And Oklahoma is the best.“But mentally, we’re very prepared for these games.”In terms of preparing, there’s no substitute for playing in actual games to get ready to face two of the best teams in the country. Syracuse was scheduled to depart for Conway, S.C., for the Kickin’ Chicken Classic last week, but the entire tournament was cancelled due to inclement weather.For an SU team that’s no stranger to the term “inclement weather,” the news was extremely disappointing and put Ross in a tough spot on how to prepare for the coming tournament. The team took advantage of the impromptu week off by taking extra batting practice and playing multiple inter-squad games. In addition, Ross put out a notice to local college teams in the area looking for a partner to take on in an exhibition and Onondaga Community College took the offer. “We needed to see some different pitching instead of constantly just facing our own,” senior outfielder Alexis Partyka said, “It allowed us to focus on what we needed to focus on with our hitting and we benefited from it.”The atmosphere for the game was relaxed and loose, and the teams decided to keep the game off the record books and didn’t keep score.The Orange looks to carry this relaxed and loose style of play into its opener against UC Davis. While the team is optimistic despite finishing a game under .500 in its first tournament, Ross knows what her team needs to improve.“I think we need a bit more confidence about us,” Ross said, “A little more killer instinct could help us out.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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