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Sophomore shortstop Clara Kendall and the Virginia softball team opens the 2010 campaign this weekend at the Elon Tournament in Elon, N.C. The round-robin event features two games with UNC Wilmington and two games with host Elon. The Cavaliers will battle the Seahawks at 11 a.m. Saturday in their first game. Kendall, a Jacksonville, Fla., native, recently caught up with to talk about the upcoming season, her personal goals and her off-the-field hobbies.

Question: Are you ready for the season?
I’m excited. We look really strong. Our first years are looking good and they are even pushing the upperclassmen to work even harder. It’s been competitive so that bodes well for a successful season. And the camaraderie of the team is a lot better. We seem to be improving each week.

Question: What’s it been like having to practice, because of the weather, off the field?
It’s hard but we keep our focus. We get the things accomplished that we need to accomplish – communication, mechanics, etc. I don’t think the transition to the field will be too hard. We look comfortable; I don’t think it will be an issue at all.

Question: What was the fall season like, in general?
We started out rough, but that was just a matter of playing live and seeing an opponent. Once we got going, we looked strong.

Question: What are the team goals for the season?
Just keep the camaraderie tight, that’s a big thing on the field. Know who you are playing with, playing beside. That will be the biggest key. The fundamentals are there – we can hit, we can play defense. It’s just a matter of communication, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and picking your teammates up.

Question: What about for you personally?
Being a leader on the field, being a role model. Communication pre-pitch and every pitch, letting the team know where the play is. Make some great plays. I’ve been putting extra time in hitting, so hopefully I can be a big factor there.

Question: What is the best and worst part about playing shortstop?
The best part is you’re in the middle of it all. Past the pitcher, all eyes are on you to make the big plays. The worst is, you are expected to make every play and it looks bad when you don’t. But it’s fun to be in a position like that because you push yourself.

Question: What do you think you have learned the most in the past year and a half being at Virginia?
Mostly it’s been off the field. I’ve been playing softball for so long, that on the field it’s about getting better at fundamentals. But off the field, I feel more responsible. I’ve set more goals for myself, I’ve worked harder to get there and I’ve stayed focused. The level of responsibility Coach (Schmidt) holds you to just pushes you to another level. I feel like I can go out and do anything after this, and it’s only my second year.

Question: Have you thought about what you want to major in yet?
Probably sociology. I want to do something in social service.

Question: What do you like to do for fun?
Hang out with the team. We have been so close this year. And this year I started following faith a lot harder, I guess you could say. I attend church on Sundays when I can, Bible study on Wednesdays or Thursdays, Athletes in Action, Fellowship of Christian Athletes on Monday nights – so that has been a big part of my life right now. It has helped keep me focused and on track and helped me grow as well. Lo, Rachel, Javy and a few others will attend with me, so it’s fun to see you connect with your teammates in ways outside of softball.

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