‘Our language is about championships’:No. 23 Missouri softball sets high goals in season filled with challenges

The Tigers have aimed for hosting regionals and an SEC title in a season rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In front of the computer screen for the first press conference of the 2021 season, Missouri softball coach Larissa Anderson looked ahead at a season unlike any other. Currently ranked No. 23 in the country, Anderson wants to continue a strong run that was cut short last season due to COVID-19.

With the pandemic continuing to cast a shadow over the country, Missouri is already dealing with the presence of COVID.

Florida A&M pulled out of this weekend’s JoAnne Graf Classic “due to COVID-19 issues” per a statement. This means that the Tigers will now play Memphis three times and No. 12 Florida State twice.

“We already had our scouting prepared, so it’s just one less folder that’s going into the bag,” Anderson said. “It kinda changes my plans in my pitching rotation. I was looking at how we were going to open up against Florida A&M and I wanted to get some kids their feet wet since they really haven’t been playing together as a team in eleven months.”

Coming off a season in which they were banned from postseason play due to academic misconduct involving a tutor before the pandemic ended the season early, Missouri wants to continue the form that helped them reach the top 25. Anderson said that the NCAA ruling that banned the Tigers gave them the mindset that there was no guarantee of tomorrow before the pandemic hit.

“We knew we didn’t have championships, so we played every game that it was a championship,” Anderson said. “So they learned that … everything could be taken away again because it was twice for us. It was the first time by the NCAA with the postseason ban and second by the coronavirus.”

The Tigers look to continue the form that saw them finish 2020 unblemished in SEC play. Anderson said the team is aiming high this season and they have the potential to win the SEC tournament and finish in the top 16, the threshold needed to host regionals. The ultimate goal, Anderson said, is to qualify for the College World Series.

“We were undefeated SEC co-champs,” Anderson said. “Our terminology, our language is about championships. It’s getting them to think about championships and to play for a ring. That’s what Mizzou softball needs to focus on, is what do you need to do in order to play for a championship.”

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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