The Purdue softball team heads to Orlando this weekend to compete in the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic Tournament.
The Boilermakers (7-5) are coming off of a 4-1 finish at the Madeira Beach Tournament last weekend, including a win over Georgetown University. Head coach Boo De Oliveira said these preseason tournaments expose the team to a wide range of teams and play styles. This prepares the players for the competition they'll face during the Big Ten season.
Senior infielder Jenny Behan is confident about the team's season after this first slate of tournaments.
"I think we’re starting off this year a lot better than we did last year," Behan said. "I think that has to do with the talent that we brought in and having another year under our belts for the upperclassmen."
The Boilers welcomed 11 freshmen this season, and De Oliveira already sees them playing like upperclassmen.
"They’re talented enough, and they’re mentally tough enough to do that," De Oliveira said. "Our expectation is that, when they go in, they’re not gonna play like freshmen. They’re gonna play like veterans, and they’ve been doing a good job of that."
The preseason slate of weekly tournaments becomes a cycle for the team. The players come back from a stretch of games Sunday night, spend three days in classes and then ship out to their weekend venues Thursday afternoon.
Behan described this cycle as "a grind," but noted that it's a shared experience among all of the teams in the division.
"It’s just a matter of who’s doing it better," Behan said. "Who’s taking care of the things they need to take care of when they’re at home so that we can be prepared for the weekend."
Behan also appreciates the opportunity to get out of the Midwest during the winter, if only for a weekend at a time.
De Oliveira praised the versatility of Purdue's utility players — players who can rotate to different positions depending on the team's needs at any given moment. In particular, she praised the efforts of freshman Nicole Siess, sophomore Rachael Krzysko and senior Mallory Baker.
"It just depends what we need in that moment," De Oliveira said. "Our utilities are trained to step up and play wherever they’re needed to play to help us win games."
Behan has a single goal for the team this weekend: win all five of its games. De Oliveira believes the team can do it, too.
"We have a Boilermaker creed that we live by, and one of the lines is ‘Boilermakers expect to win,’" De Oliveira said. "Our mentality is that we can beat anyone that steps on that field with us."
The Boilers are heading to Florida for the second of four straight weekend tournaments in the Sunshine State. The team will face Bradley, South Alabama and Savannah State for a five-game swing over three days.