Utes rested and ready to tangle with USU

For the first time since the beginning of the season, the U softball team had significant time to rest up before it begins playing at home Tuesday against Utah State.

Two weeks ago, the Utes went to Hawaii, where they did not play well and had to deal with health concerns, with injuries to outfielder Texie Criddle and catcher Bryanne Durrence.

The main objective for coach Mona Stevens in the week off was to get the entire team healthy and getting the players focused on getting their bodies ready for the rest of the season.

“I wanted to give them a chance to rest and we had three good practices,” she said. “I also wanted to emphasize lifting and conditioning. When you are on the road and playing so much, you don’t really get a chance, with practice, to get into the gym. We need to make sure we are in good condition going into the rest of the season.”

That the team could not practice as hard as it regularly has is excusable, considering the school work the players needed to get through.

“A lot of the players had their second midterm sections and were working through those throughout the week,” Stevens said.

In terms of getting healthy, all Stevens could do is give those players who have been hurt a chance to rest-but that doesn’t mean they will all be ready by Tuesday.

“Jackie [Wong] has not been released to go because the antibiotic the doctors gave to her has been slow to react to her leg,” Stevens said. “At this point, I doubt she will play against Utah State and I am just keeping my fingers crossed.”

Wong hurt her ankle three weeks ago when she tripped over a sprinkler. Freshman Devina Quintero has taken over the middle of the infield.

“Bryanne should be ready to play, but I don’t think Texie will play,” Stevens said. Criddle broke her finger and Sarah Lyman and Jenni Thurston have been playing in the outfield in her stead.

“I don’t know when she will be back because at this point, she can’t even put her hand in the glove,” Stevens said.

Without Criddle and Wong, the lineup will be thinner. The team should get an added boost, however, as it has been able to practice on grass for the first time this season.

Throughout the first half of the season, the Utes have had to practice at the bubble, because of the weather.

“Practicing on artificial surface is not really helpful because we never play on artificial surface in the season,” Stevens said.

Instead, the team is now practicing at Ute Field, where it will play all of its home games.

Throughout the season, the team has had recurring issues on the field because players just weren’t comfortable on the playing surface.

“When you are playing on turf, you don’t get a good feel for how the ball will react,” Stevens said. “The ball will bounce higher and we need a lot of practice, with the ball actually hitting dirt. It will really help out the pitching and hitting.”

But that’s not the only reason Stevens is glad the team is practicing at Ute Field.

“It’s just a real confidence booster for the kids to play at home since they have been on the road for so long,” Stevens said.

Confidence is the one thing the Utes need to have going into the second half of the season if they want to overcome the health obstacles and contend for the conference title.

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