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May 3, 2001

OSU head coach talks about record-setting season and looks ahead to regular-season finale with Penn State this weekend and the program’s first ever trip to the Big Ten Tournament next week.

OSUAC – What does it mean to you and your program to have broken the school record for wins in a season? Was that a goal heading into the season?

LK – ” To have won more games than any other team in Ohio State history gives myself and our team quite a sense of accomplishment. At the same time, we don’t have time to give ourselves a pat on the back right now. We still have games to win. Heading into the season, I didn’t want to bog our team down with goals. All I said was finish in the top six in the conference and qualify for the Big Ten tournament and then we’ll take it from there. Some of the girls mentioned reaching the 40-win mark. Certainly, reaching that goal has meant we have been doing a lot of things right.”

OSUAC – Your teams have been hampered with injuries the past couple of seasons. How has your team been able to overcome injuries this season?

LK – “It is isn’t necessarily that we have been the picture of health, we’ve had are share of injuries. Sarah West missed a week with a separated shoulder. Jenn Link missed two weeks. Kristine was out a week early on with her knee. Anna (Smith) is out now with a broken hand and Holly missed a lot of time because of stomach surgery. Even Krit and Wendy, with their lower leg ailments, have missed some games. It’s not been that we have been injury-free, but our team is better suited to deal with problems that arise. We have a lot more depth than we have in the past. The quality of our bench is much greater than it has been before. In the fact that most of these injuries are ones that we could come back from. A lot of the credit also goes to strength and conditioning. We have been able to either stay healthy or come back quickly from injuries that we suffered.”

OSUAC – What players have stepped up and surprised you this season with their play?

LK – “I think we have several players that, while I don’t know if you would call them surprises or you could say they overachieved, have come up big for us. Several players come to mind. First off, Krit (Kristi DeVries) and Wendy (Allen) came in and were able to contribute and put up such terrific numbers as freshman. We don’t do what we’re doing without them. You have to talk about Katie (Chain) and the way she has really turned it on midway through the year and become a dominating pitcher. She has thrown so many great games for us, especially in the Big Ten. Katie has matured nicely.”

“You have to mention Chrissy Fowler in that group. For her to be one of our top hitters and be batting a solid .300. If you look back in the media guide it lists her as being in the mix for the starting lineup. With her play, she has not allowed us to pull her out of the lineup. Chrissy has played magnificent. Her play has allowed us to bat her anyway from in the lineup from third to cleanup to No. 9 for more production at the end of the lineup.

Chrissy has matured and played nicely. She’s playing like the veteran she is.

“Liz (Kacsanek) just stayed at it. Even when she didn’t get the starting nod in the fall season or in the beginning of the season she continued to play steady and play within herself and play herself into the lineup. Like Chrissy, she really didn’t give us a choice to move her out of there because she continued to handle the ball, make big plays and really play her role solidly.

“Having Wendy as an everyday player was a surprise. We went into the fall without her. We went into the spring not knowing if she would be able to play. There was even talk of red-shirting her then there was talk of her not being able to pitch. We just didn’t know what her role would be. She’s not 100%, but she’s come back and the game has come back to her nicely. She’s been able to fill a lot of different roles for us, too, whether it is it’s in the circle, in right field, as a DP, in the two-spot in the order, in the four-spot in the order, or down a little bit lower. On top of her production on the mound, her overall play has made us stronger.”

OSUAC – Was there a certain game or stretch of games this season you can look back and say you had a team on its way to big things?

LK – “I don’t know if there was so much a turning point, as it was early on we were still learning about ourselves and what different people could do. When we beat Auburn early on I thought that was a really big win for our young team. Our second trip was California. When we came back 3-2, I had some indications we could really do some big things/. When we went the win streak. It wasn’t that we just one those games, it was how decisively we won them and how well we executed that I thought we’re not just winning these games, we’re winning them the right way. As far as the Big Ten goes, when we were able to rebound from two losses to Iowa and win two games against Northwestern to split the first weekend series, I thought that was a good jumpstart for us. When we went to Indiana and Purdue and swept at both places, that really gave us a lot of confidence and ignited us for the rest of the Big Ten season.”

OSUAC – What are your feelings about the dancing and chants your squad displays on the field?

LK – “I think the thing I like best about our team is the way our kids interact and celebrate the game. All year long I’ve had people come up to me and talk about how much fun our kids are having. It’s kids on the field and it’s kids in the dugout. It’s the whole team. I think they take pride in that. It helps us play better and it shows a great characteristic of this team: there is an excitement to compete and the expectation to do well. That has been a change for our program this year. We carry a confidence and an expectation to win now that we couldn’t find before.”

OSUAC – In addition to breaking the record for most wins in a season, many individual records have been broken this season. What’s it like to coach a team that virtually rewrote the OSU record book?

LK – “It’s definitely exciting to see. What I like is the fact that were doing this as a team and piling up the wins and really setting a whole new standard for Ohio State softball. Along the way, we’ve broken a heck of a lot of individual records and the kids are really humble about them. It’s no big thing. It’s oh, thanks. I don’t know if they don’t maybe necessarily understand the scope of what they’ve done or if it’s because they have so much career left that they haven’t set a record, they’ve just broken one, but they haven’t set one. When you look at strikeouts in a season, strikeouts as a team, the RBI record, the home run record, the stolen base record, these kids are doing it in their freshman, sophomore and junior years. I think it shows the quality of the program and the athletes we have.”

OSUAC – How important is it to have a strong weekend heading into the first Big Ten tournament in program-history?

LK – “One of the things that I challenged the team with before this week was that we have five games remaining in our season. The previous five games we were 2-3. We haven’t gone 2-3 in a long time and I really challenged them about their last five. So far, we’re 3-0, which is, a good sign, but Penn State is going to come into Columbus fighting for a berth in the Big Ten tournament. They need wins against us and will give us everything they have. I think our team will step up because these will be our last games of the season on Buckeye Field. The significance of the weekend for us need not be overlooked. We’re well aware we need to win at least one to remain in sole position of third place in the Big Ten. We need to not be satisfied with the fact we’re going to the Big Ten tournament. We want to go into the tournament feeling good about ourselves, feeling good about the program. These are the last two games that will allow us to that. Penn State is doing a good job hitting the ball. Their pitchers are throwing very effectively. I think they’re using their personal well. They still have the potential to do some things in the tournament. Obviously, a program coming off of a couple NCAA appearances the last couple years, they’re a program built in tradition, so this weekend is very big for us.

“I think that as we wind the season down and head into postseason play, it’s going to come down to who has more gas in their tank. Everyone has been at this since January. Everyone has had their aches and pains. This is a rugged, tough time of year. It’s a matter of who battles.”