Q&A with Eileen Schmidt
Virginia head softball coach Eileen Schmidt and the Cavaliers recently completed their fall schedule and look to continue team workouts and practices leading up to the semester break. Schimidt, now in her third season at the helm of the program, recently caught up with VirginiaSports.com to talk about the fall season, the strengths and weaknesses of the team and her best Halloween costume.
Question: What was the production like for the team from the beginning to the end of fall?
Schmidt: We started off a little slow in the first weekend but we got better each week in a good way and we finished really strong with that win against George Mason. That was a good thing because last year we started off strong and the sort of fizzled a little bit. I thought we grew as a team and individually so it was a good fall.
Question: What is the overall goal for the fall?
Schmidt: We try and get a lot of people a lot of playing times in different situations and different positions, so that we can see what we have from a personnel standpoint and recruiting-wise. Obviously things have gotten better but you still have to figure out where people fit in the puzzle and what you need to add in the future.
Question: What stood out to you?
Schmidt: (Sarah) Tacke looked good but she always does. She is very consistent. She had a good fall and swung the bat well. The odd thing was that she and Nicole (Koren) hit a lot of home runs for us last year and we only had one home run this fall, but we had a lot of triples and doubles and we ran the bases very well. We put the ball in play progressively more as the fall went on. We’re not really a team that lives and dies by the home run so our ability to hit doubles, triples, get on base was really important.
Question: Would you say you have a lot of depth this year?
Schmidt: I think we are deeper than we ever have been and the competitiveness makes people step up. (Lauren) McCaskey also had a good fall. The first years did very well for being in a certain crunch because we only really practiced as a team for a week before we went out and played a game. They’ve gotten better and stable and more consistent. Pitching, which is something we have lacked in the past, looked very good this fall – not just Mel Mitchell. I think she came into her first college experience and did well but also Stephanie Coates really had a great fall. She needs to continue to get better but she worked her tail off and it shows.
Question: What are the strengths and weaknesses on the team right now?
Schmidt: Pitching is a strength and it is probably the first time I’ve been able to say that. Right now pitching is consistent. They are keeping us in games, getting strikeouts so we have to field a lot less. I like how competitive we are with each other, with ourselves because we’re pushing each other. I like our versatility and our blue collar work ethic and that helps because we are going to find ways to score; it doesn’t have to be pretty but we’ll get it done.
Question: What kind of recruits do you look for?
Schmidt: The maturity level certainly has to be high and it has to be somebody that is very focused, not just from a softball or athletic standpoint but also academically. It has to be someone that is very balanced. Our team is a little bit different because I’ll automatically go out and get personalities because that’s the type of school this is and the type of team this is. I like that. I like that there is diversity on the team but that they can still mesh and find things in common from the very extremes on both ends.
Question: What are you looking to do before starting the season in February?
Schmidt: We need to be healthy. We’re a little banged up after a hard fall so we definitely need to get healthy. Secondly we need to raise the effort level and the energy level not just in the weight room and running, but on the softball field too. Obviously right now the strength and conditioning part kicks in because we are finishing up with the fall but at the same time we are also getting into a difficult time academically so from now until the end of the fall we need to focus in on what we’re doing both in the classroom and on the field.
Come February, we need to go home and we need to make sure that we keep the level that we end with because it’s a six week process and that’s a long time. I feel good about this group because I know they want it and I know they want to do better than they’ve ever done before. We talk all the time about how this is about more than just us. It’s about the Director’s Cup and getting the points that the Athletics Department needs to get that Director’s Cup and we are one of the teams that doesn’t get them those points so it isn’t just about us looking at ourselves – it’s we need to do better to help everyone else out.
Question: What is the plan for the Blue and Orange Games?
Schmidt: We aren’t quite ready to unveil the events because we like to keep that as a surprise but this year’s shirts will continue with the theme of blue collared work ethic. Blue and Orange Games start Nov. 2 and should be fun. It’s a competitive group so when you get into the Blue and Orange Games you never know what’s going to happen.
Question: Since Halloween is coming up, what was your best costume ever?
Schmidt: My friends and I in college went as the cast of Gilligan’s Island.