Mississippi State softball coach Vann Stuedeman (middle in maroon) reacts with coaches and players at Buffalo Wild Wings in Starkville Sunday when the Bulldogs were selected to the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Photo by: MSU athletics
May 15, 2012 7:17:09 PM
STARKVILLE - So the story begins 11 months ago as such.....I'm sitting in the Bryan Athletic Building waiting to be introduced to Mississippi State University's new softball coach. In all honesty, I had no earthly idea who Vann Stuedeman was and what kind of outgoing, excitable, passionate personality I was about to get introduced to.
Then I was tapped me on the shoulder while I was transcribing audio from a previous interview (we do that a lot in this line of work) and as I looked behind me there stood a blonde woman with what appeared to be a dry cleaning bag in one hand and a Coke Zero can in the other.
Note: It was interestingly the first fact I learned about Stuedeman - she admittedly can't live without Coke Zero.
"Hi...I'm Vann - how are you? I'm in the right place correct?" She said smiling from ear to ear.
This was my introduction to Vann Steudeman and as I was beginning to explain that we were both super early for this introductory press conference - these were the next words out of her mouth.
"I'm just so excited to meet everybody and get everyone involved because did you know we're going to the NCAA Tournament this year?"
I responded the only way I knew how.
"No Vann - I did not know that. But....how do you know that?"
Stuedeman responded the only way she seemingly knew how.
"Because there's no reason we can't and we...just...are." Stuedeman said in a matter of fact way.
It became what MSU's first-year head coach would tell everybody who would listen. Almost like a calling card - "hi - I'm Vann....did you know we're going to the NCAA Tournament?"
She told her players, who wanted to hear her vision, the postseason was going to happen.
She told the school administration the NCAA appearance was imminent, which was fine by them.
She told the media and fans her program would get one of those coveted 64 spots.
After witnessing a 24-32 season that saw the winningest coach in program history lose his job, nobody honestly knew how to respond.
"She did say (The NCAA Tournament) was the plan for this season and I, like everybody else, knew the challenge facing her team having to improve that much in less than a year," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said.
Sunday's selection to the Eugene Regional of the NCAA Tournament marks the completion of everything Stuedeman envisioned when she took the job in Starkville.
Stuedeman is one of only two first-year head coaches in the 2012 NCAA field as former MSU assistant Annie Smith leading her Georgia Southern University into the Athens Regional will join her in that feat this weekend.
the MSU players may have needed was someone like Stuedeman to tell them they were capable of what they have now accomplished.
"I didn't think she was nuts and to be honest, it was refreshing to finally have a coach that believed we were going to the NCAAs," sophomore infielder Erin Nesbit said. "From day one, she believed we would make it here and (Sunday) is just a testament to the fact she's the most determined person I know. It's awesome to play for her."
Stuedeman's dream of taking MSU to the 2012 NCAA Tournament will become a reality when the Bulldogs take to to Howe Field in Eugene, Ore., on the campus of the University of Oregon to take on Brigham Young University Thursday at 5 p.m.
"I've always wanted to go (to the state of Oregon)," Stuedeman said. "I'm super proud of these girls and how they've worked hard. They earned this."
The moral of this story, other than to point out how Stuedeman had a plan from day one when she arrived in Starkville, is that 11 months ago in the Bryan Building - I should've listened more closely to what I was hearing.
"I said it during my press conference because we have such a great group of girls and I knew it would be a challenge where we'd have to work hard," Stuedeman said Sunday. "I thanked every one of them for buying into a new coaching staff and making this happen."
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