With its bustling city streets that seem to have no bed time, New York City has earned the name “The city that never sleeps.” If there were ever a group of individuals to commandeer that nickname, it’d more than likely be Nevada’s softball team coached by former Pack Baseball player Josh Taylor.
“Average day for us would be 6 a.m. weights, all players have class all day, practice from one to four, and some of them have night classes,” said Taylor. “Fall’s a grind, it’s tough for our athletes to balance their athletic commitment and their academic commitments. But these girls do a good job with it.”
Just to put this into perspective, Fall is technically offseason. But when it comes to sports, there is no such thing as a true offseason. If a player wants to leave a legacy, leave their imprint on an organization, it’s imperative that they understand rest days are few and far between. While it’s a sentiment that is drilled into many athletes early in life, leading hitter Aaliyah Gibson has not forgotten to live by this.
Speaking on the team last season, “There were times where we felt that it was OK to take time off,” said Gibson. “It’s never okay to take time off.”
While everyone may need a mental health day from time to time, the goal is clear, don’t stop pushing yourself until you’re at the top.
Even though Nevada has improved in the last couple of years, evolving from a lowly 16-37 record in 2015 to two 30-win seasons in ’16 and ’17, and its first playoff berth in nearly a decade under Taylor in ’17, Nevada’s appetite for success is insatiable.
“There’s a lot of goals and benchmarks that we set up,” Taylor said. “Ultimately it is a Mountain West Championship first. With the Mountain West Championship comes the automatic berth in the NCAA regionals and then we go from there. All of our team goals and individual goals circle around championships.”
Some may say that a Mountain West Championship is a lofty goal for Taylor in his second season as head coach of the team, but Doug Knuth has a way of picking coaching candidates that have that win-now attitude and the ability to cash in on it early. Neil Harper winning the Mountain West Championship in his inaugural season at Nevada with the Women’s Swim and Dive program and Eric Musselman winning a Mountain West Championship in just his second season as the shot caller for the men’s basketball team to name a few early standouts. So why can’t Taylor do the same and turn another Nevada athletics program into a huge success story? Taylor thinks it’s possible, and his team backs this goal, but more importantly, the team had the utmost faith in him.
“I really like the way Coach T coaches,” said Erika Hansen, one of Nevada’s three all-conference players. “We mesh pretty well.”
But Hansen isn’t the only player who has taken a liking to Taylor’s style of coaching. When asked about the coaching change, and how the team has changed with it, Gibson did not hold back in her comparison of ex-head coach Matt Meuchel and Taylor.
“It’s changed a lot,” said Gibson. “Not saying that coach Matt never expected a lot from us, but Coach Taylor is more vocal and he comes off better when he talks. We take in his information better. As opposed to coach Matt, he would yell but it’s kind of like one of those. Coach Taylor is a great head coach. If I end up playing professional, I would love to have him as a professional coach.”
On top of believing in their coach, the team also understands that they’re surrounded with a star-studded cast. With Nevada’s three all-conference players in Gibson, Hansen and Kenzie Goins rounding out an already talented roster, saying the sky is the limit may actually be low balling this team. Second leading hitter on the team last season, Kenzie Goins, had nothing but praise for this year’s Wolf Pack squad.
“We have the skills, players and our defense is so much stronger this year,” said Goins. “We should be able to win a lot more games then we did last year.”
Granted, winning games leads to Mountain West Championships, but Gibson has her eyes set on a much bigger prize.
“As a team of course everyone wants to make it to OKC,” Gibson said. “I feel like if we focus day by day, game by game, that will come with a breeze. Because we have a wonderful team this year. It’s just packed. Whether it’s defense or offense, it’s just packed. There’s no weak links.”
Now it’s easy to say that this team could be great in the beginning of offseason when the team has yet to face any adversity, but according to Coach Taylor, this team refuses to lay down for anyone or any team no matter the circumstances.
“We don’t quit,” Taylor said. “These girls won’t quit, they’re competitors and they just love to play the game.”
Nevada Softball starts its quest for the Women’s College World Series on Feb. 8, with a road trip south of the border into Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. Mexico for the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge.