Photo by Stephanie Carpenter/Nebraska Communications

Edwards Aiming For Stronger Finish

By Brian Rosenthal

Never mind the fact Tristen Edwards led the Nebraska softball team in batting average (.356), hits (57), home runs (12), RBIs (43) and runs scored (41) while earning first team All-Big Ten Conference honors last season.

Despite that, Edwards was not at all pleased with how she finished the year, her first at shortstop after moving from the outfield.

“I didn’t end on the note that I wanted to,” Edwards said, “so I kind of held myself accountable for that, and I wanted to be able to continue to hold myself accountable for that.”

So Edwards, a junior from Murrieta, California, went to Wal-Mart and bought a calendar at the end of last season. She wrote goals atop each page of the calendar, which she put inside her locker. Edwards marked down accomplishments each day, and every time she flipped a page, she saw a new goal for that month.

“I figured if I had a tangible thing that I could touch every day, and write something down or cross a box off,” Edwards said, “that it would hold me to the level of accountability that I wanted to hold myself to.”

Yeah, a couple of snow days kept Edwards from perfection. The burden alone was self-punishment enough.

“It weighs a little heavy on my mind, yeah,” Edwards said. “I know the next day when I go to cross that box off, that blank box, it stays right here in my mind.”

To be sure, Edwards is leaving nothing to chance this season. She wants to be prepared for any given moment.

“That’s part of her daily discipline,” Nebraska coach Rhonda Revelle said, “is she goes in that locker and there’s something that she’s done to improve her game or maintain her game every single day since end of last season.

“That’s pretty impressive for a junior in college.”

The calendar, however, isn’t just for self-motivation. Edwards wants to do her part in helping the team, too.

“We’ve talked a lot about changing the culture and just getting us back to where we want to be, and I think we have a great group to do that this year,” Edwards said. “This is my favorite team that I’ve ever been a part of, and I think that says something, being on a team with 19 other girls.”

The freshmen, Edwards said, are a big reason she, as well and her teammates and coaches, feel a sense of newness and excitement.

“They’ve brought back this childhood love that we’ve all had,” Edwards said. “You can’t really describe it, but we all have so much fun when we’re together. It’s not just on the field, it’s off the field. We have such great relationships. We’ve had so much fun with them, and they’ve really brought that out in all of us.”

Revelle has noticed the same. She appreciated and enjoyed the camaraderie displayed last weekend, when the Nebraska team traveled to Wichita, Kansas, simply to find a dry place to practice outdoors.

She said she felt an “innocent spirit” among the players being outside for the first time.

“I felt like I was back to coaching T-ball,” Revelle said.

That’s one reason Revelle, while entering her 27th season, said it feels like year one all over again.

“Just their attitude and philosophy making sure that Nebraska softball is Nebraska softball," Revelle said, “and the culture that’s been instilled for years and years and years. They’re really driving that bus.”

Revelle practically beamed while explaining what she meant about the meaning of Nebraska softball.

“I’ve always said it’s two things, and if you take care of these two things, everything is going to be OK – heart and hustle,” Revelle said. “Heart and hustle. That’s from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes. If you’re investing and you’re passionate about what you’re doing, consistently, everything’s going to be OK.

“If you’re hustling and your head and your heart and your gut and your hands and your feet and you do that consistently, everything’s going to be OK.

"And that’s Nebraska softball.”

Revelle has noticed her team not only adapting to that philosophy, but embracing it.

So, too, has senior outfielder Alyvia Simmons, who says her excitement stems from the fact she can’t tell a difference between the newcomers and the returning players.

That, more often than naught, is a telltale sign of strong team chemistry and cohesiveness.

“That’s a first in all four years that I’ve had,” Simmons said. “We all flow so well on the field and off the field.”

What’s impressed her so much about the seven true freshmen?

“I think it’s their willingness to jump in headfirst,” Simmons said. “They’re ready to go. You tell them one thing, they have it fixed the next rep. They’re just ready to help this team to where we need to be.”

And as for the returning players, there’s nobody better to build your team around than somebody with a bunch of Xs and notes on a calendar in her locker.

“Tristen has grown in a way that I can’t even explain,” Simmons said. “She’s taken the offseason and worked day-in and day-out. I’ve been in our facilities for hours and seeing her being able to work on groundballs and fronthands and backhands and making sure she is where she needs to be for our team.

“I applaud her for that, for sure.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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