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For those who didn’t invest in one of the weekend’s most riveting performances on national television, you missed one of Nebraska’s most memorable athletic moments in any sport. Thank goodness, however, the Huskers have a head coach who could soak it up, appreciate the impact, define the meaning and get lifetime satisfaction from the experience, even though her team lost a 5-hour, 20-minute, 534-pitch softball marathon to the second-seeded team in the NCAA Women’s College World Series.
Rhonda Revelle, the iconic Hall-of-Fame coach who has won more games than any other coach in University of Nebraska athletic history, proved once again that it’s not always whether you win or lose, but how you played the game, and we frame that conclusion in her answer to a post-game question. That question, we should point out, triggered Revelle to go off on a tangent. “You’re getting Rhonda at full force here,” she told the media after making her point.
A reporter in the NCAA post-midnight interviews following Nebraska’s 9-8 loss to Florida late Saturday night started one question this way: “Lots of smiles and laughter up here, but I didn’t expect that. Is that a sign not necessarily of satisfaction, but are you at peace?” Taylor Edwards, who hit a lead-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to keep Nebraska’s hopes alive, fielded the question with the adrenalin she was still feeling. “It was just exciting,” she said. “I mean we’re all still excited. We just all want to continue playing … we ran out of time. That’s it. We all just feel like we’re going to keep playing … yea, there were some tears, but that game … 15 innings … I mean, who can ask for more fight than that from both teams? It was all extremely fun.”
Veteran Husker Coach Makes an Unsolicited Comment
At that point late in the interview session, Revelle interrupted the process to ask the moderator if she could make an unsolicited comment, feeling, perhaps, that Edwards’ energizing answer might be misconstrued. “I’m going to let you be privy to what I said in the locker room,” Revelle said. “This group of young women has restored and returned Nebraska softball to the national stage. Nebraska has spent a good many years on the national stage, but not in recent years. I just really feel the motivation, the drive and the talent not only put them on the national stage right now, but we can continue to grow that motivation to be better and to return here and take it farther.”
Where some see disappointment or failure, Revelle sees progress and success. As a coach who builds her team with cornerstones of heart and hustle, she can envision what one of her foremost mentors could see so clearly. That’s why she used the press conference to lay down what she described as great layers of culture and tradition. “Bottom line, these are young people here to get an education,” she said. “They’re here to have an experience of a lifetime and make memories that they can never really have anywhere else.”
What a perfect time for a veteran coach with a servant’s heart to remind everyone preoccupied with the destination that in the grand scheme of things, the journey is really what matters. Revelle takes great pride in players leaving their softball experience as happy people and if a head coach can’t take great joy from the longest Women’s College World Series game in 19 years, how can she expect her players to respect their own sense of historical accomplishment? “They’re happy for their experience, and that’s really important,” Revelle said. “I’m just really, really, really proud of this group. I’m proud to be alum of the University of Nebraska, and I think the alumni that have worn the jersey are very proud of this group as well.”
Revelle Credits Mentor Osborne’s Guidance, Wisdom
Revelle credits Nebraska Athletic Director Emeritus Tom Osborne for his guidance and wisdom. “He’s been a mentor of mine for many, many years, my whole coaching career,” she said, pointing out how Osborne believes teams go as far as their seniors lead them. “And I really believe that,” Revelle said, adding how four Husker senior leaders took it upon themselves to get everyone aboard The Energy Bus and help Nebraska regain its stature on the national stage.
Three facts are inextricably linked to Nebraska’s joyful reaction to the disappointment imbedded in a spirited, resilient, character-building performance: 1) knowing the Huskers belong on the national stage, even though they were the lowest seed to make the Women’s College World Series; 2) having the same perspective of all eight NCAA WCWS qualifiers to look at life differently in the midst of death and destruction in Oklahoma City’s tornado alley; and 3) expecting to keep its place on that national stage with the return of seven of Nebraska’s top 10 players, including junior second-team All-America pitcher Tatum Edwards, who plays left field when she’s not pitching, and freshman pitcher Emily Lockman, a future superstar who handed No. 1 Oklahoma its first loss of the season, 1-0, in Norman.
In addition, the 2014 Nebraska Energy Bus will have important passengers in junior catcher Taylor Edwards, who is writing her own All-America resume; sophomore first baseman Mattie Fowler; freshman second-baseman Hailey Decker, who hit a pivotal home run in Sunday’s marathon; freshman shortstop Alicia Armstrong, a potential future All-American; and sophomore center fielder Jordan Bettiol. It seems equally important to point out that three more Huskers played in one of the most exciting games in WCWS history. Dawna Tyson was a pinch-hitter, and fellow freshman Kiki Stokes was a pinch-runner who played left field. Junior Kylee Muir delivered a hit as a pinch-hitter when the pressure was on.
By now, you probably understand why Revelle remained so positive, even bullish, in a losing locker room. This fall, Tatum Edwards, Taylor Edwards and Muir will be seniors, and their leadership will determine how long Nebraska can last on the national stage now that they’ve found it in two excruciating, one-run, extra inning losses to Washington and Florida. For Revelle’s well-seasoned team, The Energy Bus is a proven philosophy that pulls the team together and enables everyone to drive with purpose and passion, yet makes sure that players have fun, enjoy the ride and can still feel joy, even when they run out of time.
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