The exhibition games for the Knights on Monday will have a main focus on relaxing and having fun. Both the Marist softball team and the Netherlands team will be traveling a half day’s time to play two games against the UCF Knights this Monday at 4:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the UCF Softball Complex.
While the Knights (19-9) have struggled with some of their past games, the heat is being brought back for Coach Renee Luers-Gillispie’s team. Just after beating No.22 Notre Dame, UCF is ready to play ball and leave it all on the field. For this week’s ‘off the record game’, the players will have a chance to have fun while still getting the practice they need.
When talking to Luers-Gillispie about their approach to this week’s exhibition game, the main tactics will be for implementing as much practice for every player as possible. “Since it’s an exhibition game, it doesn’t count towards our record which will give each player a chance to play in an international setting”.
Flying in more international teams to play in the United States has been a NCAA goal for the past several years. “For the most part when it comes to the Olympics, your usually seeing countries like Canada, Australia, China and the USA that are the strongest across countries,” Luers-Gillispie says. “Because the Olympics softball team has been dropped, the last 10 or so years has been focusing on more international teams to play each other in building up other European countries and giving softball the recognition it deserves.”
While UCF went up against the British national team in 2008, coach Bobby Simon out of Atlanta brought them down to play against the Knights. “It’s a really neat atmosphere for the girls to come down and play for their country,” says Luers-Gillispie preparing her girls for this Monday’s game.
With this week’s doubleheader being touted as a not so stressful game, it will prepare the Knights for their upcoming conference tournaments against their most fierce competitors.
In starting the second half of the season, a bye week is given to the Knights for the first weekend of conference. Luers-Gillispie’s team will play their exhibition games on Monday to prepare for their first conference game against Memphis at home, March 22 at 1:00pm. . “Playing a game that doesn’t count towards you’re record is much less stressful when playing a competitor. This week’s game will allow some of the younger players to bring the fun back in the game and hopefully stay relaxed for next weekends conference play offs between Memphis,” Luers-Gillispie talks preparation.
Coming into a new conference this year, both the players and the coaches are looking forward to the new competition.
Overall the assessment of this season’s team is held to high standards. “Although they have surpassed many expectations I have, there are still certain things that we as a team need to work on,” says Leurs-Gillispie. “There are no seniors so we know that are team is still young, which means there is much needed room for learning, but with that being said, I know that we should be playing so much better than what we’ve been leaving on the field”.
Although the Knights have nine losses this season, they will bring with the second half of the season a more intense attitude and love for the game. “When the girls bring out that intensity, that passion and drive, that mentality of leaving it all on the field really makes the girls want to bring the heat for upcoming games.”
And that’s exactly what they showed against No.22 Notre Dame. Coming out with the win and then going seven innings with Alabama proves the Knights are willing to put up a fight against anyone.
“I’m excited to see all the young ones stepping up.” Luers-Gillispie says. Freshman short stop Brittany Solis puts up a brick wall for her competitors, while Linnea Goodman, although coming off of a knee injury, has been holding up an extremely tough position in left field while making some unbelievable catches.
It’s Sophomore Shelby Turnier who has brought the heat for the Knights in the circle. “Shelby has done a lot of great things for us and have won a lot of big games for us.” Leurs-Gillispie says. “Your also seeing players like Samantha McCloskey as a sophomore starting to step up and getting some big hits so your looking at all the players we have right now and besides Farrah Sullivan who’s playing 3rd base and Kahley Novak who’s playing 2nd base, we only have two juniors starting for us.”
Looking at all freshman and sophomores on the field right now for the Knights, the team is young, but in no way naïve. For the Knights, they will try and charge their way to two victories in Monday’s game.
The UCF exhibition game against the Netherlands and Marist will be starting this Monday at 4:00pm at the UCF softball complex.