WATCH: Lotief Recaps Opening Weekend, Previews Alabama
When teams win as many games as Ragin' Cajuns Softball does every season, every loss stings extra hard.
Louisiana went 4-2 in their opening weekend in the Louisiana Classics Tournament, but the two losses to Southern Miss on Sunday left a sour taste in the mouths of the players and coaches.
Coach Lotief knows a quick way to wipe the feeling of disappointment away, and it involves beating one of the best teams in the country this weekend.
"We can forget about Sunday by sweeping Alabama. That's how you get the Sunday taste out of your mouth," Lotief said.
There's a lot of pressure on the team to perform, each and every week. Lotief understands his players want to live up to expectations, but he doesn't want the weight on their shoulders to bring them down.
When he diagnosed the problems in the losses to Southern Miss, most of the explanations he provided were mental.
"I think we were pressing, I really do," Lotief said. He also explained how they need to deal with the losses, stating, "Take a deep breath, and you can't lose confidence. If you lose confidence, you're done. Something like this can spiral into something really bad. Just take a deep breath. We have a lot of players that are putting pressure on themselves."
He used Kara Gremillion as an example. Even though she reached base 11 times over the weekend, but Lotief said she was upset with herself every time she got out. Lotief said a lot of players on the team are putting undo pressure on themselves, and he is trying to remind the team to stay in a positive mindset.
Lotief is an expert motivator. Part of the reason his teams are so successful is their mental approach to the game of softball is airtight. He's not going to let the two losses fester, and he's going to pull his team close for the upcoming challenge against Alabama.
"When you go through disappointment, I feel like you spend too much time looking for excuses...you can't lick your wounds in this game," Lotief said. "We're going to stay together, we're going to learn, we're going to grow and we're going to keep developing our foundation."
Losing is part of the process in softball. It's how you handle the losses and respond to them that defines a season.
Lotief emphasized that development is going to be key for the Ragin' Cajuns early in the season. There are a lot of new faces on the field, in the circle and behind the plate.
Alyssa Denham, Summer Ellyson, Beth Ashley and others shined in their debuts for Louisiana, and Lotief is going to continue to get his younger players experience so they're ready for the postseason push.
"That's the story of the weekend is that we threw six pitchers and we used three catchers, and it seemed to go pretty seamless," Lotief said proudly.
Jaime Landry, Lexie Comeaux and Brittany Nollkamper all got time behind the plate, and Lotief worked a lot of arms in the first tournament of the year. With the depth of talent on the roster, Lotief wants to make sure he gives all the proper players time to earn their spot in the lineup.
There were some incredible moments from the weekend from some of the newcomers too. Ashley hit a home run in her first career at bat as a Cajun, and Daniella Chavez provided a two-RBI walk-off single on Saturday. Both of them have the ability to grow into major contributors on offense.
"You can see the potential," Lotief said. "Beth can be a great hitter. Chavez is already a pretty seasoned hitter."
It's a long season for players like Ashley and Chavez to develop, but they will receive possibly their toughest test of the season only two weeks in.
Alabama is coming to town this weekend, and they have two of the best pitchers in the country in Sydney Littlejohn and Alexis Osorio. They won their first five games by a combined score of 43-5, proving their dominance in the first week of the softball season.
In a massive matchup of top 25 teams this weekend, Ragin' Cajuns Softball fans get to witness two elite programs battle it out early in the season. It's a postseason preview, and Lotief's team will come out ready for anything.
In his press conference video above, Lotief talks about the ups and downs of opening weekend, the problems Alabama poses and the return of two familiar faces to Lamson Park, former Cajuns and current Crimson Tide coaches Patrick Murphy and Alyson Habetz.