By, Rico Chow '12
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It's always an adjustment for transfers to be successful in their first year at a new university. But Alyssa Jepsen, last season a National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Junior College All-American shortstop and pitcher at the College of San Mateo, has immediately become Santa Clara's leadoff hitter and everyday shortstop. She recently took the time to give us an inside look at SCU Softball.
SCU: You have the team's highest number of assists this season so far with 37, playing at the shortstop position. What kind of team-building exercise do you do in order to improve the team chemistry?
AJ: Luckily, our team chemistry was never an issue. For me though, it was tough making that transition as a transfer, while still being one of the oldest on the team. It was like I was the new kid on the block, and yet I needed to come in like I had already been there for 2 years. But, we have had several team dinners -- hosted by Coach Mize, a pitcher, and actually just last night our weight/conditioning coach (Sherman Trigg)! We love joking around, keeping the mood light, and right now my teammates are obsessed with playing against one another in this 'Draw Something' app. Also, once every other week, we have a meeting with a Sports Psychologist (Adam) as a team. Adam teaches us about the mental aspect of the game, challenges us to analyze our performances, and basically addresses everything we need as a team to be successful.
SCU: So many athletes and teams have their own rituals before the match or game starts. Do you do anything particular before games?
AJ: I feel that baseball/softball players are the most ritualistic/superstitious out of all the sports. For me, I have to wash my own uniform, I wear the same headband depending on the uniform we are wearing that day, do my make-up/hair the same way... Although, depending on how I am hitting my hair is either in a ponytail or a braid -- it all depends on how I am feeling. My 'Softball Playlist' is filled with Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Tyga, and Drake -- listen to the same pump up songs before, and I rotate my Dr. Dre Beats depending on how I played in our most recent games. I have learned to not get caught up in warm up rituals, because sometimes we are so pressed for time that you cannot control if you don't have time to do certain things.
SCU: Some people believe that baseball and softball are similar sports. Can you share with the fans what are some of the differences between the two?
AJ: Baseball and softball are similar sports in terms of positions, and the overall idea of the game... The details of the game are different and the most obvious difference is the color and size of the ball used. Softball uses a 12-inch (in circumference) lime green/yellow ball, and baseball uses a 9-inch white ball. Softball's base path is 60 feet to baseball's 90. Softball's pitching mound is 43 feet (in college) to baseball's 60. In softball, the runner is not allowed to lead off of the base until the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, while in baseball they are allowed to lead off of the base while the pitcher has possession of the ball. In softball typically the homerun fence ranges 180-230 feet, while in baseball the closest a fence can be is no less than 250 feet. Another difference at times, depending on the field, is that softball has an all dirt infield, while baseball has a grass/dirt infield (with the exception of turf fields).
SCU: At the College of San Mateo, you had an outstanding junior college career, receiving the 2011 NFCA Junior College All-America honor last year. What do you think is the most important thing that helped you earn this award?
AJ: The most important people that helped me earn the award were my coaching staff up at CSM, along with the support from friends and family. I had a great group of girls to play with and an unbelievable coaching staff keeping me on track. Going into CSM I had only played softball for a little over a year, and I was lucky to have my coaches every step of the way. I can safely say that CSM is the best thing to have happened to me -- it allowed me to take a step back and reevaluate where I felt I wanted/expected to be in life, and it was a stepping-stone in the right direction. I was able to start loving the game again and receiving 2011 NFCA Junior College All-American award was just a blessing.
SCU: How do the Broncos' and the San Mateo Bulldogs' softball teams differ in terms of competitiveness and training? What is your goal as a Bronco student-athlete?
AJ: In junior college sports you have a variety of platters. Some might not have received that much playing time in high school and are trying to work their way up, others might be 'kick backs' from four-year universities -- you honestly never know what type of talent you will have. But that is kind of the beauty of it. At CSM, I was on a team that wanted to be a part of something bigger and we wanted to prove ourselves to everyone. We were not afraid of the hard work or any team on our schedule -- as a team, we came together, bought into what our coach was telling us and committed to the grind. So, in terms of competitiveness, there is no difference between the two teams. However, training is an element that I knew it was going to increase from a junior college level to a DI college level. I was actually looking forward to the whole weights and conditioning aspect of collegiate athletics. Only because at a Junior College level, you have a limited amount of time and facilities compared to a DI level where you have all the resources you need to be successful. At Santa Clara, the softball team has weights every Tues/Thurs at 7 a.m., conditioning every Wed/Fri at 2:30 p.m., and practices every Tues-Fri afternoon. Add classes before/after all of that and you have a full schedule! Being a student-athlete is demanding, but that is what we signed up for and I know I love and embrace every second of my collegiate career.
SCU: Pacific Coast Softball Conference play starts soon. What are the team's goals for PCSC play?
AJ: We need to use our pre-conference games as a way for us to learn and get better as a team. Ultimately, our goal is not only do well in PCSC, but to finish at the top.
SCU: The softball games are held as early as 9 a.m. to as late as 7 p.m. Do you prefer to play softball in the morning or after the sunset? And Why?
AJ: I would say I enjoy playing after sunset more. I am not at my best early in the morning. I like having the day to get mentally prepared for games, and my body feels more loose and functional later in the day.
SCU: Any comments for the fans?
AJ: Don't lose hope in us! This year we have an amazing group of ladies that are invested to getting this softball program back up and running. Our stadium breaks ground on May 15th, and I am hoping the funds are met so I will be able to play in it next year. Come out and support Bronco Softball! I know we would all love to see some familiar faces out there :)