This is the third of four preseason features ahead of the Razorbacks’ 2014 season opener Feb. 7 against UC Davis at the UNLV Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. Next week, we preview the upcoming season.
FAYETTEVILLE – From a rough freshman season to back-to-back NCAA Regional final appearances in 2012 and 2013, the senior class of 2014 has helped bring Arkansas Softball to new heights as a program. Recently, seniors Jayme Gee, Amanda Geile, Ashley Martindale, Clarisa Navarro, Chloe Oprzedek and Jennifer Rambo got together to look back on their first three years at Arkansas and to look ahead at the season to come.
With just two weeks left until the start of your senior seasons, what thoughts are going through your head?Gee: I’m anxious. There’s this buildup to the start of our last season together.Rambo: Yeah, a part of me wants (the season) to be here already but another part of me says ‘let’s just keep things slow and extend things out’ but I’m really pumped. I think we’re going to have a great season.
You assume a leadership role as a senior so what are the things you want to pass down and leave with this program?Martindale: We’ve worked really hard to get the program where it is now so I think we want to pass along our work ethic to keep things going.Geile: We have high expectations and after we leave, it’s in their hands to continue what we’ve done together.Rambo: It’s been pretty cool to be Coach Bee’s first class and go through all the big "firsts" like our first Regional final and our first time being ranked. That’s a good legacy to leave behind.
As you think about your careers at Arkansas, have things sped up relative to how you felt as freshmen?Geile: It’s crazy to think we’re already seniors because it happened so fast.Rambo: We sit around and talk about old memories and all the good times we’ve had.
When you’re sitting around talking 10 years from now, what is the moment you’ll think about first?Entire group (almost in unison): Beating Cal.Rambo: As of right now, that was the best moment but we’re all waiting for more good moments this year.Geile: After our freshman year, we didn’t know what to expect so to get into the (NCAA) Tournament as sophomores, go to Cal and then beat them was pretty cool.
Five of you were part of a freshmen class that only won 13 games in 2011 (Navarro transferred to Arkansas in 2012); what thoughts got you going for that next year?Martindale: We could only go up and we had nothing to lose.Geile: No one else really expected anything from us.Martindale: But it’s fun to be the underdog.Geile: Even now, I think we’re still underdogs. We had a great season last year but we’re still proving ourselves.
What are the big changes to the program since you’ve been at Arkansas?Navarro: It was like a big family when I got here (before the 2012 season). All they wanted was for you to work hard and they wanted to be part of your life. That was something I really enjoyed about the team environment when I came in.Rambo: Our team chemistry has really changed. This class has really bonded since our freshman year because of everything we went through. Coach Bee has done a great job of recruiting players that have similar goals to what we already had as a team.
Coach Larabee has spoken about developing competition and depth in the practice setting. How has that helped this team develop?Oprzedek: Everyone pushes each other but at the same time we’re not afraid to help each other. We can all be competing for the same position but we’re not holding that against anyone. Everyone is rooting for each other to do well. Of course, we all want to play but if you’re not, we all know we’re cheering for everyone else on the team. That’s a really good team trait to have.
This class will begin a new tradition with a Senior Day for each player. Has anyone thought about what that day will be like for them?Martindale: I try not to think about it yet.Rambo: I had anxiety just picking my day because we don’t want it to end yet.
What are the best traits about the person on your right?Geile (about Oprzedek): I’ve lived with Chloe and been good friends with her since freshman year so I’ve gotten to know her caring nature. She’s like the mom of the team and takes care of everyone. If something is wrong, she wants to be there to help you. She also puts her full self into everything she does and I think that’s a special thing about her.
Oprzedek (about Rambo): I’ve known Jenn for five years, almost six. She’s always cheering for you and never wants to bring anyone down. She’s very truthful and honest, and does the little things. For example, recently someone had a rough day at practice so she brought that person a cookie and put it in her locker. She’s always trying to cheer you up because she truly cares about everyone and their well-being.
Rambo (about Navarro): I haven’t known her as long as I have everyone else but she’s become one of my best friends really fast. I know she always has my back, on or off the field. I don’t know if there’s a better word for this but she’s nice to everybody. She’s gone through a lot and still has the most caring heart of anyone I’ve seen in my entire life. Whatever it is that she’s been through hasn’t broken her down and she’s always going to be there for you.
Navarro (about Martindale): We’ve bonded a lot more over time and I see her as a unique person on our team. I think her work ethic and the way she carries herself is special. I think to be in her shoes would be difficult but I also know she’s going to work hard for everything, on and off the field. Her love for Jesus is also amazing. Those are just a couple of things I’ll remember about Marty.
Martindale (about Gee): Jayme is one of the toughest people I know. She’s been our only catcher for the last three years now and that’s incredible when you really think about it. As a friend, she always knows how to make each of us laugh no matter what else is going on.
Gee (about Geile): Amanda is one of the hardest workers in the weight room and on the field. She’s a great leader with the ability to step up in front of everybody to say something. She has confidence in what she says and I really look up to her leadership skills.
For more information on Arkansas softball, follow @RazorbackSB on Twitter.