College Sports

Wintry weather ices practice plans for many teams

Bitter cold temperatures, rain and ice have been playing havoc on Winthrop coaches as they prepare for the spring sports season.

"It's driving me up the wall," softball coach Mark Cooke said Wednesday. "We've been out three days since we got back to school. I don't want to go outside when it's less than 40 degrees because that's when you get the pulled muscles."

The Lady Eagles have been able to get in limited work in the team's indoor hitting facility.

"I don't know what we would have done without that," said Cooke, whose team opens against Cal State Northridge on Feb. 8. "We're getting a lot of hitting in and our pitchers are getting work."

Cooke said players are also able to field ground balls inside, but it's not the same.

"You want to be outside fielding balls and making throws," Cooke said. "We've only got 40 feet inside to throw."

Baseball coach Joe Hudak is also making good use of the team's new hitting facility, which was part of recent construction.

"It's been a savior for us," Hudak said of the facility that opened in September. "We've been outside six or seven times."

Under new NCAA guidelines adopted for this year, teams can't start full practices until Feb. 1 or play a game until Feb. 22. So, Hudak and his staff have been conducting individual workouts.

"We're hitting, our pitchers are throwing in bullpens and we're getting in some defensive work," Hudak said. "But we need to get outside."

Kevin Pendley's men's golf team started practice Tuesday, and he doesn't foresee taking many days off because of the weather before the Eagles fly to Houston, Texas, for the Rice Intercollegiate on Feb. 16.

"My rule of thumb is that if a golf course is open and could host a tournament, then we're going to practice," Pendley said.

The women's team has spent a lot of time on the driving range, but coach Jodi Wendt said the players are wearing so many layers trying to keep warm that they're having trouble getting in good practice sessions.

"We haven't been able to work on our short game at all because the short game is all about feel," Wendt said. "And, you don't have any feel in your hands. Hopefully, we'll be able to get on the golf course this weekend.

The Lady Eagles open the season on Feb. 10 in Riverside, Calif.

Tennis coach Cid Carvalho said he expects his men's and women's teams to be behind during the early part of the season when they have to play teams that have indoor courts.

"We haven't had any consistency in how we can practice, and then we have matches against teams that have the ability to practice and play indoors," Carvalho said. "It's a real mess."

Carvalho hopes that a temporary bubble that can be erected in September then taken down when the weather warms can be constructed over three of the school's courts in the near future.

"For us to compete, it's imperative that we eventually get something like that," Carvalho said.

"We've had to adjust what we do in practice," track coach Ben Paxton said. "It was 27 when we practiced on Monday.

"We're doing a lot more stretching and staying away from fast starts. We've even took our sprinters to the pool."

• RECORD DAY: Snow even forced Paxton's team to leave last weekend's indoor meet at East Tennessee early, but the Eagles still managed two school records.

Junior Ashley Howard threw 54-feet, 10 1/2 inches to win the Flight Three weight throw, while Matt Elliott ran 1:54.01 in the 800 meters.

"We took 41 kids and had several make the finals," Paxton said. "We left early because of impending bad weather that never materialized. But you can't take a chance."

The Eagles compete at Akron in two weeks.

• PASSING SHOT: The Winthrop women's tennis team fell 7-0 to 34th-ranked Kentucky on Saturday night in Lexington, Ky.