It may be spring break, but the Hawaii softball team still had some homework this week.
With the Rainbow Wahine working through a midseason slump, head coach Bob Coolen distributed a handout highlighting mental cues to help put them “in the right mind-set when they go into the box or when they go out into the field.”
Getting back into a positive state of mind has been among the keys for the Rainbow Wahine this week as they enter the Western Athletic Conference season coming off four consecutive losses to close their latest tournament.
Who: Utah State vs. Hawaii
“Every little bit helps,” shortstop Jessica Iwata said. “He’s just trying to get us back on the right path right now. We’re just trying to work hard and fix the things that weve been having trouble on.”
The reading assignment included tips to think about before the game to … well … keep from thinking too much when it’s time to perform.
“Coach Bob is really focusing on the points we’ve been struggling at so hopefully when we get into WAC it’ll be a lot more muscle memory and a lot more reaction instead of so much thinking,”pitcher Stephanie Ricketts said.
The losing streak, accompanied by a collective offensive slump, weighed on the minds of the Hawaii players and coaches after closing last weekend’s Chevron Spring Fling Tournament with losses to BYU, Iona, California, then BYUagain in a semifinal.
They’ve used the practice time since then to turn their focus toward the WAC schedule, which starts today against Utah State at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.
UH (22-9) and USU (5-23) play at 6 p.m. today and conclude the series tomorrow with a doubleheader starting at 4.
“All of us have talked; we’ve had a few team meetings just to recapture where we’re at as a team and where we want to be and focus on our goals and what we need to do to get there,”said senior right fielder Jenna Rodriguez, UH’s leading hitter at .333.
Despite the recent slide, Hawaii remained in the national rankings this week, appearing at No. 20 in the USA Today/NFCA poll and No. 25 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll.
Led by Ricketts (13-7) and Kaia Parnaby (8-2), Hawaii owns the top earned-run average in the WAC and ranks 13th nationally at 1.40.
They’re holding opponents to a .180 batting average, and have surrendered an average of three hits over the last 15 games of their current homestand.
But the Wahine will try to find their rhythm offensively after scoring four runs in their last five games while hitting .164 to drop their season mark to .260.
“We just all came together and basically we’re starting over and we have to leave what already happened in the past and work off of it and learn from it because there’s nothing we can do about it already,” Iwata said.
The Wahine open the WAC season against a Utah State team yet to play a home game and bringing a 10-game losing streak into the series.
The Wahine tore through the conference schedule last season at 19-1 during the regular season and captured the program’s first WAC tournament title.
Even so, Coolen dismisses the notion of “defending” the WAC crown, focusing instead on the next step of qualifying for the league’s tournament in May.
Given the team’s success last year, Coolen expects the target UH has worn all season is “going to get 100-fold magnified because everyone is trying to get six spots out of eight teams for the WAC tournament.
“We need to accept that challenge and play the way we’re capable of playing.”