Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
NFCA Press Conference: Alex Powers, Jessica Burroughs, Mysha Sataraka, Kasey Cooper, Tina Iosefa, Bianka Bell, Sahvanna Jaquish
CAROL BRUGGEMAN: Hello, everyone. Welcome to our press conference, introducing the All-Americans. I'm going to go down the row. These are a small sample size of the All-Americans. There's a press release here that we've passed around, and it's also on our website at NFCA.org.
We have two young ladies from Florida State. Why don't you guys go ahead and introduce yourselves.
ALEX POWERS: I'm Alex Powers. I'm a red-shirt junior and I play first base.
JESSICA BURROUGHS: I'm Jessica Burroughs, and I'm a red-shirt junior, also, and I'm a pitcher.
KASEY COOPER: I'm Kasey Cooper, I'm a junior, I play third base, and I'm from Auburn University.
MYSHA SATARAKA: Mysha Sataraka, senior, third base from UCLA.
TINA IOSEFA: Tina Iosefa, senior, first base from the University of Georgia.
SAHVANNA JAQUISH: Sahvanna Jaquish, utility, from LSU.
BIANKA BELL: Bianka Bell, LSU, third baseman.
CAROL BRUGGEMAN: Congratulations to all of you young ladies. We'd first like to thank the NCAA for allowing us to introduce you during the World Series.
The purpose of the NFCA is to support fastpitch coaches in their quest for excellence while uniting together to advance the sport we love. One of the ways we honor this quest is through our awards program.
Most importantly, what I want to do first is just have our chair, Christy Connoyer, who is the head coach at Saint Louis University, just take you through how the All- Americans are selected very quickly, and then I have a few words, and then we can have you ask questions of the All-Americans.
CHRISTY CONNOYER: Aside from their obvious talent, how it works: Division I schools are divided into 10 regions across the country. The D-I All-American Coaching Staff of the Year committee, which is a group of 10 elected head coaches from across the country, represent each one of those 10 regions. In April, all D- I coaches nominate up to eight players from their respective teams for all region consideration. D-I coaches then vote for their respective all-region teams by mid-May. Once a player earns all-region status, they're eligible for All American status.
On Monday, we completed the All-American voting in an in-person meeting here in Oklahoma City. One of the most exciting yet challenging things we do is select those All-Americans. It was a long process, but the list you have before you is the best of the best in 2016. Congratulations.
Earning the title of an NFCA All-American is the highest award a Division I softball student-athlete can achieve. I want to read you a little bit from the first few paragraphs, and then I'll open it up for questions.
58 student-athletes from 31 different institutions were selected to one of the three 2016 NFCA Division I All- American teams. The five conferences, ACC, Big Ten, Big-12, Pac-12 and SEC, that are represented in this year's Women's College World Series have 22 selections, including six student-athletes on the first team. In all, the SEC led the way with 18, the Pac-12 racked up 10 nods, and the Big Ten came in with eight sections, and you can see the rest of the selections there.
Michigan and Florida topped all programs with four honorees, including three first-team selections for the wolverines. Auburn, Oklahoma, Louisiana-Lafayette, Florida State, Alabama, UCLA and Oregon each had three student-athletes represented. The Gators and James Madison joined Michigan with multiple First- Team honorees, gathering two apiece.
And the last one is very important there, headlining the NFCA All-American First Team is a pair of four-time All- Americans, 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Sierra Romero of Michigan, and senior class award winner Haylie McCleney of Alabama both have garnered First Team honors for three seasons after being selected to the Second Team as freshmen in 2013. So congratulations to all the All-Americans, especially to the young ladies here who are about to play this weekend for a national championship, and at this time I'd like to turn it over to Brian Stanley, our director of media relations, and open up the floor for questions. Congratulations again.
BRIAN STANLEY: Congratulations from me, as well. It's a great honor. I'd like to start this off with kind of a general question to get you guys going. We know this is a prestigious honor and everything, but what is it like maybe playing against these players that you're sitting with or the other ones that are on this list?
SAHVANNA JAQUISH: Well, I'm happy to not play against Bianka Bell. I'm pretty honored that she's on my team with me, and these other girls here, they are the best of the best, and they have a lot to offer. We're just happy that we're here and it's a dream come true.
KASEY COOPER: I would say when you face All- Americans you have less room for error. So when we're facing a Jessica Burroughs, she's not going to make that many mistakes. You have to capitalize when she does, and the same way with all the hitters standing before me. If you miss, we won't. That's the ultimate process for an All-American.
JESSICA BURROUGHS: On the other side of that, being a pitcher pitching against some of the best of the best, I don't have room for error, like she said. I have to make sure each pitch counts, and it's a really good test of your ability to pitch against the best, and it's a big honor, honestly.
Q. Alex and Jessica, Florida State's team, you guys are both relied on to not only help lead the team but pass on lessons to the younger players because it is such a young team. How do you do that, and does being an All-American give you a little bit of extra clout when you pass on those messages?
ALEX POWERS: Well, I definitely think it gives you some credibility, but I think the relationship that you build with your teammates first of all is what really allows them to buy into what you're doing and what your coaches are teaching, so the personal connection and the relationship that you build just based on your personality, based on how much respect that the other girls have for you is what really is going to get them to buy into everything that we're working towards.
JESSICA BURROUGHS: And I think our team does a great job of leading by example, also, just by watching the older people, the younger people are able to see how we deal with the big situations in a game, and I think that us being calm and staying in the moment and really pulling through for our team during those times is really big for the freshmen to see how we work through that, and I think that's one thing that we do a lot with our program.
Q. Mysha, what's it been like the last three days to come back against Oregon, then finding out you're going to play Auburn who eliminated you last season?
MYSHA SATARAKA: I mean, just so much emotions, first off, just getting to the World Series against such a tough Oregon team, and we're just happy to be here. Everyone is trying to play for the Natty right now, so to face the first opponent, obviously Auburn, a very talented team, as well, we're just going to go in and play our game and play how we know how to play.
Q. Kasey, you and Emily are the first three-time All- Americans at Auburn. To be able to have that distinction in the last three years, is that again an extension of what Coach Myers has been able to do for this program that has led you and Emily to be able to do that?
KASEY COOPER: Absolutely. It shows how great of a coach Coach Myers is, and obviously he's not a Hall of Famer for nothing. He knows what he's talking about. We have to buy into the program, and so when you see top-caliber players coming into the program, it's only going to make recruiting easier, and I'm just so thankful and honored to play under Coach.
Q. Kasey, I'm working on a story about the Auburn hop and kind of what it's done for this program, how does it help you and this team to do something like that before every pitch? What sort of impact has it had on this group do you think?
KASEY COOPER: Well, I think people don't actually realize it because in Major Leagues people are sitting a little bit farther away than in softball, and Major League players do it, too. It's just not as big. So when the coaches come in, it's taught to get higher in the very beginning until you can kind of modify it. If you watch, Jade and I both hop very differently. I stay very low to the ground like Emily, and Jade and Whitney jump very high. So it's all about the reaction. Jade and I play corners, so it's a little bit different, and it gets us ready. There's no false step, which is ultimately why we do the hop.
It's a great piece that we like to use. It's kind of new for the game of softball and the SEC, and we're really happy that it started at Auburn.
Q. LSU girls, is there a fish in the dugout, and if not or if so, what did you buy at Wal-Mart on the way down here this year?
BIANKA BELL: We have not been to Wal-Mart yet. We left Juanita in Baton Rouge, but we have a new little rally dugout item that's called Little Rally, and he's like a little Tiger with hot sauce in him, so we'll bring him out if we don't get in trouble from the NCAA. (Laughter.)
Q. Jessica and Alex, I asked Coach Alameda about the experience factor. Does that count for anything as players on the field that you guys have already battled against and in some cases beaten Auburn? Does that count at this point in the year?
ALEX POWERS: I mean, definitely it's good to have played them because you know what they offer, but at the same time like their programs and just like ours have grown in the last couple weeks or months since we last played them. I think since we know the girls we still don't know exactly what to expect, because again, the game doesn't know, like it was mentioned earlier, and it's not who's better, it's who plays the game better. I think that's less open a lot of times because you're not sure what exactly you're going to get from each game and each opponent that you're going to face.
JESSICA BURROUGHS: Yes, and I feel like there's a lot of other outside things at the College World Series, and I think it's who can bring it in, be with their squad and who can really play at their level and their game and just kind of be with their sisters and just embrace it all and take that breath and really play the softball that they've been playing all year, and I think that's what's going to set each team apart. Each game is going to be a battle. All eight teams are great. The experience of playing in it before was great, but like Alex said, you don't know how the team is playing now. Pretty much it's just who plays their best that day, and I think that's what's really going to set everyone apart.
Q. Tina, you guys were kind of the story of softball just a few days ago with the upset against Florida. Have you had time to reflect on that victory and kind of what it meant for your program and now that you're here?
TINA IOSEFA: Yeah, we have. I mean, it was very exciting. Also it was a huge day for us to come in and huge situation get that walk-off. But we celebrated and now we're moving on and we're here, and we're all going after a common goal just like the other teams are.
Q. Is it difficult to kind of leave that one in the past because of the emotion that comes with it? What has your coach told you to kind of get you guys settled and ready for these games?
TINA IOSEFA: Well, obviously we were pretty excited because we were kind of the underdogs, so just bouncing back from that and really taking that momentum into this week.
Q. Your coach had commented on how this team has kind of embraced your Polynesian roots in some of the things that you've done this season. Is that cool to see everyone kind of rally around that and for you to kind of educate some of your teammates about where you're from?
TINA IOSEFA: Yeah, I think when we first started, Coach really wanted to emphasize the family culture that Polynesians really emphasize, so that was really huge for us this season.
Q. You're All-Americans, you're here for a chance to win a national championship. What a dream that you're living it, so congratulations, but if you were to turn to a young girl or young fans, just share with us a word or two that comes to your mind for you to earn the status you've earned and to be able to play in a championship like this with your teammates. What quick word of advice would you give them? What's helped you?
BIANKA BELL: I think being selfless. I wouldn't be here without my teammates. They put us in a spot to challenge this season and last season, and I wouldn't be here if I didn't have their support and them just rallying around me.
I think them just being who they are and just winning all those games, if we don't have a winning season, then I don't get these accolades. It's pretty awesome that you just emphasize team.
ALEX POWERS: I'd say kind of the same thing. I wouldn't have put up the numbers if there was no one on base, so just thankful for my team and for my coaching staff.
TINA IOSEFA: The word that I would use probably for me as a player would be happy. You know, I'm very happy with my teammates around and my team and just having that joy on the field with them, it's such a huge honor because you don't get to play with top Division I players like we do every single day, so I think happy is a key word for me.
MYSHA SATARAKA: Yeah, I guess I would just say just living in the now or just enjoy that moment right now because, I mean, if I could just go back really quick to the super regionals, I think the best part of that whole thing was turning and seeing how the biggest smiles on my teammates' faces and just to see the joy in them and to see all that hard work has just paid off in those smiles. It's one of the greatest feelings in the world, so just enjoying it.
KASEY COOPER: I would kind of say my motto is dream, believe, achieve, so dream of it, believe you can, and with the hard work it'll pay off and you'll achieve your goal.
JESSICA BURROUGHS: I would say to never stop growing. You can always learn something from the game no matter how old you are but just never stop growing and learning and asking questions, and learn from it and just become a better ballplayer from it.
SAHVANNA JAQUISH: I would say to compete, whatever obstacles, adversity or anything that you're faced with, just go through it and handle it, and it'll make you better in the long run, and in the end we're playing a game and it's fun to just compete, I think, playing against the best competition in college softball day in and day out is what really pushes us to be better people and to really determine who we are as we grow up and stuff. So just keep competing and know that you're going to get through it.
BRIAN STANLEY: Thank you, ladies. Congratulations, and good luck tomorrow in the rest of the tournament.
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