Lotief Playing It Safe Heading Into Sun Belt Tournament [VIDEO]
(Michael Lotief starts at the 3:55 mark in the video above, after Chris Malveaux speaks)
The Sun Belt Conference Tournament starts this week, and Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns won't be taking any unnecessary risks.
Head Coach Michael Lotief is as shrewd as they come. He's still waiting for Lexie Elkins to come back from injury, and he wanted to remind fans that even when she returns there will be certain limitations.
"She's not Superwoman, and we're just going to ease her back," Lotief said. On top of that, it takes time for players to get back into a rhythm, "You're talking about two to three to four weeks to get her timing back, and we don't have two to three to four weeks."
When you have the #1 overall draft pick on your team, you find a way to make it work.
Elkins' thumb injury makes things complicated. The thought of reinjury concerns Lotief so much that he said he would explore playing her at other positions. He mentioned right field as a possible alternative, to avoid damage behind the plate. If he's not comfortable putting her in the field, she can play DP.
It's all about playing the long game for Lotief. The Sun Belt Conference Tournament is important, don't get it twisted. He's just not going to risk his best player, or any other of his players for that matter, before they get into field of 64.
"The relevance of winning the tournament has changed over the last four or five years. More and more conferences are putting less and less emphasis on the tournament and the selection committee because of the way they adjusted the RPI. They look at the body of work in the season more," Lotief explained. "On the other hand, our kids, we want to win the tournament, and we're going to try to win the tournament, but not at all costs."
The concept of winning at all costs sounds heroic to fans, but Lotief is right.
With Elkins out, it's not like the Cajuns' season submarined. He was proud of her replacement behind the plate, freshman Brittany Nollkamper, and other youngsters like Kara Gremillion, DJ Sanders and Aleah Craighton for shouldering a larger load. As arrogant as it sounds, they probably don't need to rush Elkins back to win the Sun Belt Tournament.
Times have changed. Before, Lotief would have gone for broke in this situation. Now, the conservative play might be the smartest decision.
"Before, it was win at all costs," Lotief said. "If you're not healthy going into a regional, you shot yourself in the foot. It's a risky proposition. I don't want to win the [Sun Belt] tournament at all costs."
Whenever Lotief figures out the plan of action, his team will roll with the punches like they did all year. Going 40-7 in the regular season is no easy task, but the best chapter of the story is about to begin. As captain of the ship, Lotief wants to make sure his crew goes into battle with their full arsenal.