Feb. 8, 2007
Preseason All-American Whitney Haller sat down with RamblinWreck.com and discussed the upcoming 2007 season. Haller and the Yellow Jackets will host Georgia Southern for a twinbill this Saturday, Feb. 10, beginning at 1 p.m. at Glenn Field.
What are the team goals for this year?
“We have the same goals every year. We want to be successful in our non-conference games, do well in the big tournaments against the ranked teams, and be successful in ACC play. We really feel like we have a legitimate chance to win the ACC, that’s our major goal. We have not advanced to a Super Regional yet, so that is a major goal as well.”
How important is winning the ACC regular season and getting a No. 1 seed in tournament?
“It’s huge. It’s a confidence booster more than anything to be successful against the teams that you are going to be playing in the tournament, but it’s also better seeding in the postseason tournament. It’s an advantage both ways. After ACC play, it only matters who wins the tournament, so that is the No. 1 goal.”
What is it like going through a coaching change?
“It’s different. I’ve never had to do it, so it’s a new experience. It really isn’t that much different because coach (Sharon) Perkins really tried to incorporate everything that we have already done to what we are doing now. She just added little things along the way. So it wasn’t a huge change, but the goals of our team, or major focuses, are different from last year.”
What are those?
“Our weakness last year was our defense, so we’ve really, really concentrated on the little things on defense to try and hone up our weakness from last year and also keep our strengths from last year, which was hitting.”
How different is your outlook on this season now that you are expected to perform the way you did last year?
“It’s different. I have the same mindset that I did last year, which is you have to earn everything that you get, but at the same time it’s going to be different because I am known, I guess. I probably won’t get as much to hit, so everybody around me is going to have a chance to be successful. If they don’t pitch to me, then they are going to have to pitch to the person behind me and that person is going to be successful. It’s going to work to our advantage either way.”
Is that something that happened over the second half of the season last year?
“Yes, it did towards the end of ACC play and regionals. It got harder and it developed a different mindset for me. When that started happening last year, you can look at the stats and see that Caitlin (Lever) and Savannah (Brown) started being really, really successful. I didn’t see anything to hit, and they stepped up and played awesome in the postseason.”
What are the biggest strengths of this team?
“As far as the game goes, definitely hitting. We are a really, really strong hitting team one through nine. Anywhere in our lineup, somebody can hit a home run and steal a base. I really feel like we have really good team comradery. Last year versus this year I feel like everybody understands each other and we really mesh well together.”
When you look at the schedule, what are some of the biggest games besides ACC play?
“Definitely the (NFCA) Leadoff Classic. We play some really legitimate teams in the Leadoff Classic, I’m sure we will play some ranked teams, so that will be our first test of where we are versus ranked teams and what we really need to improve on.”
How do you feel about facing 10 preseason top 30 teams this year?
“I’m excited. You want to step up and compete with ranked teams to see how good we are. I’d rather play the No. 1 ranked team in the country and maybe lose, to see what we have to improve on to be as good as them, than play the other teams. I would rather play the hard core teams, to say that we played them, even if we were not as successful as we’d like.”
Last year you just missed ACC Player of the Year honors and NFCA All-America. Is that something you strive for this year after being so close as a freshman?
“I feel like I was so close last year, but that was not a goal of mine going into the season. I never expected to be even close to that. But now I feel like my confidence in myself has grown and I do believe that I can do this. It’s a huge goal, but at the same time, I can’t get there without my teammates. I can’t be successful without everyone else getting on base, everyone else providing me with the opportunity to be able to do what I can do. Individual things like that, I would love to get, but it’s a team effort too.”