April 3, 2013
By Michael Eldridge | UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas - Playing 24 of the team's 33 games on the road to start the 2013 season has given the UT Arlington softball team an opportunity to come together and grow into a winning program.
The Mavericks (17-16) have opened their season playing in three different states, five different cities and in three different time zones. The only time zone left is Mountain, and UT Arlington takes care of that this weekend at second place New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M.
The Mavericks opened up the 2013 season with a trip to Orlando, Fla. The team went 4-1 in the UCF Holiday Inn Select and got to visit Downtown Disney.
For two Mavericks, the travels throughout the United States have given them a chance to make a return trip home. Britnea Barilli and Nina Villanueva were able to make play in their own neck of the woods when UTA played in the San Diego Classic II.
"It was amazing," Barilli said. "I got to go home for a few hours and the team came over to have dinner at my house. It was so much fun."
Barilli, a native of Poway, Calif., said that the San Diego trip has been her favorite so far this year. Beyond the fact that she got to play in front of friends and family, she said that it gave the team an opportunity to see things they haven't before.
"When we went to Sea World, the team was so amazed by everything," Barilli said. "We saw some flamingos, which while not a big deal for me, were for the team. They were staring at the flamingos for like 30 minutes."
UT Arlington coach Kristie Fox said that the team is creating strong bonds when they go places together.
"Those long trips let you get to know each other on a different level," Fox said. "They work really hard all year long, and if I can take them places where they can enjoy and their families can go with and have a little vacation as well. On those trips we have played really well and that is a positive I will remember going forward."
The trips aren't purely vacations. It's still business.
"I told them let's have fun together, but when it comes game time let's focus on that," Fox said. "They have done that really well."
Villanueva, who is from San Diego, said that one of her favorite parts of the road trips is how the team gets along away from Arlington.
"Our team is small and we are a really close team," Villanueva said. "My favorite moment has been hearing Kallan Thompson singing on the bus in her accent, singing `You make me want to roll the windows down.'"
For both Villanueva and Barilli, each decided on coming to UTA to experience something new. They also liked and felt comfortable with the Mavericks coaching staff.
"It's definitely different from where I grew up and that is what I like," Barilli said. "I came here for the coaching staff because I knew them personally and knew how good they were going to be."
The coaching staff and team coming together has been a theme for a season that's had its share of adversity. The team has lost numbers, a fact Barilli said has made the squad even stronger. That has given Fox, and assistants Meagan Denny-White and Vanessa Soto, the opportunity to know everyone on a more personal level.
"I want to focus on the girls understanding that they are adults now," Fox said. "It's up to them in the effort and work they are willing to put in. It's about what you want to do with your sport and life and continuing to teach them the lessons in life, not just in softball."