Virginia Tech Softball now has a target on its back. After being just one step short of the Women's College World Series last summer, head coach Pete D'Amour's squad is now looked at as one of the best in the nation. Yet despite this, the fifth year head coach remains focused on the short term while also maintaining his high goals for this team this season.
“We always try to be top third in the league, winning your conference, especially the ACC. Yeah, we want to get to Oklahoma City and it’s one game at a time, I hate to be cliche about it. We will see where we stand this weekend, the thing with us is constantly improving, we want to be better in May then we are right now,” D'Amour said.
All-ACC First Team outfielder Emma Ritter was a big reason why the Hokies were able to earn the #3 overall seed last season and come so close to reaching Oklahoma City last season.
She echoed similar thoughts on the team's ambition to get to OKC this year while also being focused on taking it one game at a time.
“Yeah I mean a new season is always exciting, there is a lot to look forward to. As you mentioned, last year we were one game short so I think going into it knowing we were so close to the World Series and that we were so close to being there, that brings our excitement up even more. But it is about taking it one game at a time and not looking towards the end of the year. We are at the beginning of the year so just focus on playing hard and having fun,” Ritter said.
D’Amour also feels that the weight of high expectations on the team hasn't affected their preparation, as he believes his team has practiced very well over the last five weeks, That's important given the fact that Tech has scheduled another tough non-conference slate.
The Hokies will have little time to prepare before they face some of the most stout competition in the nation at two separate invitationals. This competition includes Oklahoma State on Feb. 17, UCLA on Feb 18, and finally Texas the following Friday. All three of these opponents finished fourth, third and sixth respectively in the NCAA Women’s Softball RPI last season with Pete D'Amour knowing that building up those RPI points early on in non-conference could be crucial to making sure Tech's path to OKC can once again be through Blacksburg
“A lot of our future RPI points are ahead of us, you know that's the thing you wanna try and get in a position to host like we did last year, to do that you need a high RPI,” D'Amour said.
The good news is that they'll have some momentum going into that after a dominant 5-0 start with wins over East Carolina, UNC Wilmington, and Purdue Fort Wayne where they only allowed 3 runs with ace Emma Lemley dealing a pair of shutouts.
Virginia Tech will have to deal with a tough schedule this spring, but this team has the talent to once again rise to the challenge. If they continue to take it one step at a time, they will most certainly be on their way to earning up a top eight NCAA seed and again having their path to OKC go solely through Blacksburg.