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The McNeese State University Cowgirls softball team. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

The McNeese State University Cowgirls softball team. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Cowgirls have job to finish in tournament

Last Modified: Tuesday, May 06, 2014 1:51 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

It’s been nice so far, but...

For the second straight year the McNeese softball team won the Southland Conference championship outright.

That’s nice.

For the third straight year the Cowgirls turned more than a few heads by knocking off some of the elite programs in the country.

That’s also nice.

And for the second straight year McNeese will enter the Southland Conference tournament next weekend as the top seed.

That’s where the niceness ends.

Last year the Cowgirls didn’t win a game in the tournament, exiting early after two losses. They didn’t hit in clutch situations and they were sent packing.

Hopes of making it to an NCAA regional died just as fast.

So this year, making the SLC tourney as the top seed isn’t good enough. It’s nice, but nice doesn’t cut it.

The Cowgirls know this and accept it.

“We learned from last year,” said head coach Mike Smith.

Let’s hope so.

In the past this type of a season would have been applauded around these parts. Winning the conference is great and that’s about where all the hope would usually ended.

Not now. Not with this group.

Since taking over three years ago Smith has been telling us he wanted to build a program that could compete with the best in the conference, region and, yes, even nation.

He has done that and more, exceeding all expectations but his own. He wants more, demands more, expects more.

Smith and his team were upset a year ago when they were sent home long before anybody could have imagined.

Now they get a second chance, or rather have earned a second chance.

From the first day of practice last fall, this year was pointing to this conference tournament.

The regular season has been, well, nice.

The Cowgirls have done what they were expected to do, roll to a conference championship.

But, again, that isn’t good enough, not for this group.

This group has dreams of greater things.

Tell them it’s been a good season and they are quick to point out they are a long way from finished.

That may not be fair, putting an entire season on the outcome of a couple of games, but that is the way it is with softball.

The Southland Conference is a one-bid league when it comes to the NCAA softball tournament, though if there is one program whose resume may justify a long look it is McNeese.

The Cowgirls have some big wins, but they can’t go 2-and-out.

That may seem like a lot of pressure but this groups has only itself to blame for that.

It’s the team that tells us what is expected and what can be achieved.

This is not a team that would just be happy making it to the regional, this is a team that plans on making some noise once it gets there.

I say once it gets there because they believe the only team that can stop them from making the NCAA is the Cowgirls themselves.

They are right. They have shown us that by dominating the conference in each of the last two years.

They have done it by beating the likes of LSU and a few other SEC teams.

The Cowgirls have proven they can beat the best when playing their game.

Now they have to show us they can play their best when they have to the most.

A nice year won’t cut it this spring and the Cowgirls know it.

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