Rutgers remains optimistic despite inconsistent play
Going on a winning streak and then dropping the next few seems to be a patented trend for the Rutgers softball team this season.
With all of these losses coming after stringing together winning streaks, a team usually will drop their head and give up.
But not the Knights, not under Jay Nelson’s helm.
“Until we’re mathematically eliminated,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “We're gonna give it everything we have until we get to the goal.”
With 41 games already in the books, Rutgers has fallen into the basement of the Big Ten Conference.
Tied for second-to-last in the Big Ten with Michigan State at 2-7, the Knights realize they have been playing top competition all year, and possibly doing well against ranked opponents is something that drives Rutgers.
“I think opportunities to play those teams, and the opportunity to play our game and possibly do well against those teams is what keeps us going,” said senior infielder Jordan Whitley. “Any team we go up against, we have the potential to beat”.
The Knights have played nine games against ranked opponents thus far, with the 10th coming up this weekend against No. 21 Minnesota.
Although Rutgers is 0-9 in those games, hard-nose competitiveness is being displayed with close contests against then-No. 24 Ohio State in two games, No. 17 Central Florida and No.19 James Madison.
One thing the Knights are doing to stay positive is to keep focusing on the goal and keep reminding themselves they are facing the best of the best, and that their record does not define their team.
“We keep reminding ourselves that were facing the best in the nation,” said senior catcher Elizabeth Adams. “We're competing alongside with them even though we're not ranked right now, we're competing with them.”
But with all of the tough competition played already this season, Rutgers still finds itself just five games under .500.
One reason why the Knights are still on the prowl and not laying down just yet is because of the coaching style of Nelson. He never gets loud with his team, and understands the importance of keeping the moral high.
“He helps keep us positive and on track with our mentality in the games,” Adams said. “He’s right along side us fighting these battles too. He always tries and look at the bright side.”
Nelson said Tuesday at practice that the mood around the team is mainly optimistic because of how he doesn’t put a restriction on his players. He explained the best formula for building a program is to have fun while still striving for your goal.
“I don’t put a restriction on them that we must do this right now,” Nelson said. “I don’t come out here and say we must do this and we gotta do it now. I don’t think that helps them. If we can get our work done and have some fun doing it, that’s a better formula. I think its better for the program and it helps build the program.”
Rutgers gets ready to face No. 21 Minnesota this weekend and will need a combined effort to beat them knowing that the Golden Gophers have the No. 2 ranked pitcher in ERA in the Big Ten in Sara Groenewegen.
But Nelson isn’t afraid of the competition his team will continue to see this upcoming weekend.
“They got each others backs,” Nelson said. “That’s what we preach, no matter what happens, you have to have each others backs. That’s part of being a teammate on and off the field.”
For updates on the Rutgers softball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.