Rachel Lawson: Seniors brought program to another level

Here’s what Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson had to say Sunday after her team’s 5-3 loss to Utah in the NCAA regional that ended UK’s season.

Opening Statement …

“Well, first I want to congratulate Utah, I thought they played great today. They’ve really done a lot with their program over the last couple years and to go onto super regionals is awesome, it’s special and they really did a great job today. I thought today was a great day for softball, both teams played really hard. We played well. Both teams had their backs against the wall several times and it was a back-and-forth battle both games so I think that both teams need to feel really good about what they accomplished here. I feel like it was one of the most evenly matched regionals in the country in terms of two teams. I thought both teams played well, both teams made great plays, both teams had a couple of missed queues, so I think overall it was an awesome softball game to watch. I know I’m only supposed to talk about today, but I would be remiss if I didn’t thank, usually I thank the people where I go, but I think this regional was run really well. From the standpoint of, I thought that the NCAA representative did an awesome job of getting the games played as best as she could and making sure we had a great championship game. I thought our staff at Kentucky was exceptional. I thought our grounds crew, our video crew, our event staff, everybody, our equipment staff, everybody just did such a great job of trying to make all four teams, try to give them the best chance of having the best possible postseason they could have had. I thought considering all of the elements I wanted to thank everybody for doing that. But I thought today, we are disappointed we are not moving on but we want to congratulate Utah and we wish them the best.”

On what impact having three games yesterday had on them …

“Well, I’m not a student-athlete so I don’t know, but I think, I’m sure fatigue is a big deal. One, we have never played three games in one day and then turn around and play two more. We have never played five games in two days, so I don’t know what the effect is. I do think that our team showed a lot of guts and a lot of grit. Physically, I thought we were pretty strong. Obviously it takes a toll on your pitching staff and I think that was kind of the case at the end of game two. I think our pitches weren’t as sharp as they could’ve been if we didn’t have to play so many games. So I think that was probably the biggest effect. Also I have to give a lot of credit to Jenny (Schaper), I can’t imagine being a freshman and being behind the plate and squatting so many times, and she was on point the entire time. I don’t believe there was a passed ball the entire weekend, if I’m not mistaken. So I think she did an exceptional job. So I’m sure it had an effect but I do believe that our team played very hard and I think we are very physically strong.”

On her senior class …

“I hate it when you do this. Yeah we were just talking about, it’s pretty, this is going to sound weird, but four years ago before this class started, to be up on a podium and talk about how we were ‘upset’ is unfathomable to this group because we were always the team that if we were to win, we were the ‘upset’. For us to have beaten a Pac 12 team to go onto a regionals, it didn’t happen very often. And now I think about what this program has become, we have opened up a brand new stadium, we have a ton of wins, we have been to three straight super regionals, we were in a Women’s College World Series, and there are softball players all over the country who never get to say that. It’s all because of this senior class, they came here to help bring the program to the next level. I think they have really done that. I know they don’t feel great right now, but I know they’re going to sit back and reflect and see exactly what they have accomplished. This will go down as one of the toughest groups because, again, what Kelsey (Nunley) was alluding to is that last year we made it to super regionals but it was hard. I felt like the program wasn’t where we wanted it. On paper we were ok, the locker room was ok, and it wasn’t the Kentucky team you saw. The way we played all season is really alluded to the senior class and their leadership and what they have accomplished. Looking back I will be really proud of this group and they’ll always be a big part of this program. I hope that returning players and future players I don’t even know about are going to be able to build on what this class has done. I believe they have grown us into one of the elite programs in the country. We are definitely among the top 20 in the country and hopefully the classes coming in will respect that and build on that and hopefully keep that tradition going.”

On having Meagan returning next season …

“It’s awesome. I was thinking about that today and this is an awesome senior class, but one of their legacies that they’ve left is that I would argue that our program has made a complete step in a better direction and a lot of that is our senior class, not only did Meagan do an outstanding job today, but we had a freshman batting second, a freshman batting fourth, a freshman batting fifth, and a sophomore batting sixth. So even though we had a great senior class we also had a lot of youth on your team. It was something we didn’t talk much about because they played like veterans. So I feel like the senior class has left us in good hands and we have a good team moving forward.”

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