MSU softball coach Vann Stuedeman, middle, celebrates with her team during a game earlier this season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
It's like Christmas in May for Mississippi State softball coach Vann Stuedeman.
She wants the Bulldogs to feel the same way.
Stuedeman relishes being a part of the Southeastern Conference and its tournament.
Even though MSU got a tough draw, facing the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first round at Tuscaloosa, Stuedeman said these types of opportunities are what battling through the grueling 54-game schedule to this point is all about.
"This is the best time of the year," Stuedeman said on Monday's SEC coaches teleconference. "It's your second Christmas and what everybody plays for.
"Motivation won't be a huge factor. We want to make sure that the girls are confident going into postseason play and make sure they are prepared with video and knowing their opponent."
The Bulldogs finished the regular season with a 33-21 overall record and 12-16 in the SEC. They are the eighth seed for the tournament.
With the SEC Tournament being in Tuscaloosa, Stuedeman expects a hostile environment.
It won't be a first time experience for her.
Stuedeman remembers the first year of the Super Regional format and having to travel to Texas A&M for competition.
"They have that 12th man there and their student body really buys into that type of support," Stuedeman said. "They were hanging over the dugout and yelling. What a unique environment."
Prior to becoming the MSU head coach, she was an assistant at Alabama and helped the Crimson Tide go 579-150 in 11 seasons, including a 243-70 mark in the SEC.
Stuedeman has watched as the sport of college softball has grown throughout the country.
"It's watching the fanbases grow similar to (Texas A&M) around the country and now at Oklahoma City (for the Women's College World Series)," Stuedeman said. "It's just the enormous fan and crowd support. The venues are getting better and better year-in and year-out."
In her opening remarks on the teleconference, Stuedeman emphasized how important it was for the Bulldogs to be a part of the SEC and how much of an honor it is to be able to play on ESPN during the tournament.
She also congratulated her former school, Alabama, for its "three-peat" for the SEC regular season title.
"That's fantastic and says a lot about the character of that senior class that has carried that team for the last three or four years," Stuedeman said.
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