Nadia Taylor

Seniors Kayla Brewer and Nadia Taylor celebrate Texas’s win against West Virginia with junior Gigi Mazionyte.  Brewer and Taylor were honored with fellow senior Cokie Reed, who retired earlier this season.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns were able to pull out a cheerful ending to what was a rather disappointing season Tuesday night as they powered past West Virginia 58-45 during their Senior Night.

Texas (12-17, 5-13) hosted the Mountaineers (17-12, 9-9) at the Frank Erwin Center and sent them home with their second straight loss. Seniors Nadia Taylor, Kayla Brewer and Cokie Reed, who retired earlier this season, were celebrated before the game.

Taylor made her first start of the season and recorded the first score of the contest only 20 seconds in. However, that would remain the Longhorns’ only lead until Nneka Enemkpali tied the game at 12 with two shots at the line.

The full court press by the Mountaineers caused some trouble for Texas in the beginning of the half as turnovers were forced in their own back court. However, after getting used to this strong defensive strategy, the Longhorns were able to gain momentum.

Leads were exchanged until the last minute of the half where Texas scored two points off free throws and then a last minute lay-up with seconds left to secure a 24-20 lead going into the break. 

The Longhorns then controlled the second half of the game when, except for a quick tie at 17:59, they held the lead for the entire period. The young team, which has struggled in conference play this season, went on a 20-6 run with a little more than 10 minutes left to play, which took them into the last minute.

“I thought the difference tonight was our execution in the second half,” head coach Karen Aston said. “We settled down and started getting the ball where it needed to be and started executing plays. Our execution was just a little better.”

Strong defensive play was prominent in the season finale for both teams as Texas held its opponent to 31.6 percent shooting while the team itself shot 45.5 percent from the floor.

The Longhorns held the Mountaineers to just four of their 13 attempts (30.8 percent) from the charity stripe.   

As Texas looks ahead to the weekend when it travels to Dallas for the Big 12 Championship, Aston believes her team will come back strong from this season, taking it as a learning experience. All of her top players will be returning for at least one more attempt at a title.

“I don’t think there is a measuring amount for how much they have grown,” Aston said. “The biggest thing I take from this is the character of the people that we have returning. We’ve gotten so much better game after game after game.”

Published on March 6, 2013 as "Horns win, seniors shine". 

Despite an 0-5 start to Big 12 play in her first year as Texas head coach, Karen Aston is still proving to be an excellent recruiter.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

With the departure of Cokie Reed and Chelsea Bass from the roster because of health concerns, head coach Karen Aston will have some pretty big shoes to fill through her recruiting efforts. 

However, in her short time at Texas, Aston has already resorted to methods different from those of her predecessor in order to fill holes on the bench. Not only has she signed several junior college recruits since her hiring, but she has also dipped into the various talent pools within Texas’ athletic system. 

So far this season, Aston has acquired talent from two other teams within the University. At the start of the season, senior Nadia Taylor, formerly a third baseman who played four years of softball for head coach Connie Clark at Texas, joined the team to take advantage of her final year of eligibility. 

“As a fifth-year student athlete, she has been able to help the young players adapt to Texas and understand what it means to be a part of the Texas legacy,” Aston said.

Although she has seen limited action so far, Taylor’s presence on the bench provides needed depth. Aston also praised Taylor for the leadership skills she brings to the court. 

Aston also added freshman Sara Hattis in December, a member of the national championship-winning volleyball squad under the direction of head coach Jerritt Elliott. At the end of the basketball season, Hattis will return to the volleyball team. 

As a senior at Cleveland High in Rio Rancho, N.M., Hattis was a heavily recruited volleyball and basketball prospect. After sifting through many scholarship efforts from both volleyball and basketball coaches, Hattis decided to play volleyball at Texas. 

At the start of her career on the 40 Acres, Hattis was unsure of her participation in basketball, but decided to join up after the volleyball season ended. 

By adding Hattis, Aston filled another hole. Besides freshman Imani McGee-Stafford, the Longhorns are fielding a relatively average-sized team. Hattis brings a 6-foot-4-inch frame to the court with an impressive jumping ability. She can reach a height of 10 feet one inch on a vertical jump and can dunk a tennis ball. Her goal by the end of training is to reach a vertical of around 10 feet 7 inches and dunk a basketball. 

“Anytime you can welcome someone to your team with an inherent sense of Texas pride, it’s a plus,” Aston said. 

Aston and her staff also welcomed two college transfers to help fill out the bench. 

GiGi Mazionyte, from Weatherford College, and Ashley Roberts, from South Plains College, were added this past May to the Longhorn roster. Gail Goestenkors, who stepped down as head coach after last season, didn’t seek junior college transfers. The last junior college player to transfer to Texas did so in 2004.

“These young ladies possess a terrific combination of athletic ability and commitment to excellence in the classroom,” Aston said. “They are going to be great ambassadors for Texas women’s basketball.”  

Maziontye was recruited based on her versatility and experience as a forward. Because she has played both at the collegiate level at Weatherford and as a member of the Lithuania national team, Aston hopes her addition will help mature the young Texas roster, especially through the rigorous conference schedule. 

Roberts filled a need as guard for the Longhorns and provided a necessary backcourt presence. She has a proven ability to score, another needed quality for the Longhorns. 

While at Texas, Aston has begun to fill the holes in the Texas roster and provide the Longhorns with the talent needed to make it to the
next level.

Nadia Taylor to use fifth year of eligibility to play basketball

After spending four years on the Longhorns softball squad, Nadia Taylor will try her hand playing for the Texas women's basketball team.

 

NCAA guidelines allow student-athletes to have five years of eligibility, provided at least one of them is used on a different sport. Taylor, a four-year starter for Connie Clark's softball team, will now play for recently hired head women's basketball coach Karen Aston, who expressed her excitement to having Taylor join her squad.

 

"Nadia loves competition and wants to contribute in any manner she can. Anytime you can welcome someone to your team with an inherent sense of Texas pride, it's a plus," Aston said. "As a fifth-year student athlete, she has been able to help the young players adapt to Texas and understand what it means to be a part of the Texas legacy. In our situation, we're looking for leadership and Nadia will immediately add that to the team."

 

Taylor started 231 of a possible 234 games during her four seasons as the Longhorns' third baseman, posting a career batting average of .337 with 32 home runs and 132 RBIs. She lettered three times in basketball during her sophomore year at Humble High School and the last two years of her high school career at Atascocita, earning all-district honoros as a junior and senior. Taylor led her team in scoring and rebounding her senior season.

  

Taylor will be joining a team that loses three starters in guard Ashleigh Fontennete, guard Yvonne Anderson, and post Ashley Gayle, the program's all-time blocks leader. Aston is bringing a pair of highly-touted high schoolers in, 6-foot-7 center Imani Stafford and guard Empress Davenport, along with junior college transfers, guard Ashley Roberts and Lithuanian forward Gigi Mazionyte.

Senior second baseman, the third overall pick in this year’s National Pro Fastpitch League draft, leads Texas with a .408 batting average.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

This weekend marks softball’s final installment of the State Farm Lone Star Showdown and for the century-old rivalry. The Longhorns will travel to College Station Friday afternoon to play the first game of the series on the road against the Aggies. Saturday, both teams will head over to Red and Charline McCombs field to play the rest of the series in Austin.

The highly anticipated game will be aired nationally on ESPN2. The No 5. Longhorns are ranked second in the Big 12 with a conference record of 11-5 and have a one-game advantage over the Aggies who have an 11-6 conference record.

The Aggies are ranked 14th in the country and are 31-14 on the season. They are led by junior Mel Dumezich, who was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Week last week.

During their last meeting, the Aggies won 5-1 against the Longhorns in College Station May 2011.

Longhorns take advantage of momentum surges to win games

No matter if they are up, down or tied, the Longhorns have effectively fed off of each other, utilizing momentum at the plate. They have at least 10 innings so far this season in which they have scored at least five runs — a rare feat in softball.
“When one person on our team hits, the energy starts going. It’s a domino effect,” said senior Courtney Craig.

The most ideal inning for these momentum swings is the fifth inning — a time when the Longhorns have warmed up enough in the game but early enough to not put the game in jeopardy. They have scored 55 runs in the fifth inning alone so far this season — most of them as part of comebacks.

“Teams have been scoring before us, and we’ve stayed calm. We don’t let it get to us,” said junior Torie Schmidt.

The most recent momentum surge came in a 13-6 win in Lawrence, Kan. where the Longhorns utilized a seven-run inning to secure the win against the Jayhawks.

Senior trio fulfills expectations

Seniors Lexy Bennett, Nadia Taylor and Craig, who were appointed as team captains earlier this year, have proven themselves to be invaluable to the Longhorns’ success this year.

Bennett, who recently was drafted third overall in the National Fast Pitch Pro Draft, has become a Top 25 finalist for National Player of the Year for the Amateur Softball Association. Her .408 batting average and 49 RBIs lead the potent Texas offense and she has 51 hits and 38 runs so far this season. In February, the second baseman was named Player of the Week for the Big 12 Conference for the third time in her career. Bennett is ninth in the country for RBIs and owns the career RBI record at Texas with 147. She also has the highest career batting average at Texas with .379.

As a third baseman, Taylor, along with Bennett, has been an important component in the infield and at the plate for Texas. Taylor has started all but three games in four years at Texas, most of them at third base, although she has contributed as designated player for the Longhorns. Twice this season Taylor has been named Big 12 Player of the week, most recently last week for her performances against Texas Tech and Kansas where she went .800 at the plate.

Despite struggling with injuries last year, designated player Courtney Craig hasn’t let anything stop her this season. Her .352 career batting average ranks third in the Texas record books and she is second on the team this season with 35 RBIs and third with 43 hits. As a freshman in 2009, Craig also dabbled in the circle and pitched 4 and 2/3 innings for the Longhorns, earning a 3.00 ERA.

“These three have earned the trust of their teammates, they’ve walked the walk and they have the ear of their team,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark.

Printed on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 as:Horns set to square off against rival Aggies

Softball Review

Blaire Luna pitches against Oklahoma State during Sunday’s 5-1 win. Luna struck out nine and allowed one unearned run.

Photo Credit: Raveena Bhalara | Daily Texan Staff

The No. 5 Longhorns won another Big 12 series this weekend, going 2-1 against the Oklahoma State Cowgirls at home.

Friday night featured a close, low-scoring 3-2 victory while Saturday saw a 3-0 shutout loss. The Longhorns then came out to finish the Cowgirls in a 5-1 win that was characteristic of the Texas offense this season.

The Longhorns are now 37-7 on the season and 11-5 in Big 12 Conference play. Saturday’s game also marked the Longhorn’s second annual Pink at the Plate game to support breast cancer research.

The Cowgirls went up 1-0 early in game one before the Longhorns posted a three run third inning on the bats of sophomore Karina Scott and senior Nadia Taylor. Oklahoma State made a strike in the top of the fifth inning in an attempt to stage a comeback, but it was not enough. The Longhorns held on another two innings to scrape by with the win.

Sophomore Rachel Fox came out with the win Friday night to improve to 10-0 on the season and remains the only Longhorn starting pitcher that is still undefeated on the season.

Junior Kim Bruins took the loss for the Longhorns on Saturday afternoon and is now 7-4 in the circle for the season. Bruins gave up 11 hits in the 3-0 loss. The Oklahoma State defense frustrated the Texas batters all day. The Longhorns managed to get 11 runners on the base on five hits, but couldn’t get anyone across.

In the bottom of the seventh with one out, the Longhorns almost posted a comeback with consecutive hits by sophomore Lexy Bennett and sophomore Brejae Washington but a quick strike out and pop out by the Cowgirl defense quieted the Longhorns and secured the win for Oklahoma State.

On Sunday, Texas was back in familiar form with its 5-1 win. Blaire Luna allowed one unearned run off of two hits. With the win, the Longhorns are only one game behind the Oklahoma Sooners for first place in the conference.

Washington, who went 0-for-2 with one walk and one run, tied the Texas record for career stolen bases. The sophomore earned her 62nd career stolen base and is now tied with Desiree Williams.

The Longhorns used a four-run second inning to put away the Cowgirls on Sunday. Junior designated player Torie Schmidt went 2-for-3 in the win with one run scored.

“Yesterday, we took a blow and reset today. We wanted to come out here and show what we can do,” Taylor said on losing Saturday and coming back to win on Sunday. “We were focused on every pitch and just making sure we win every single inning on offense and defense. [We were] keeping the energy up in the dugout.”

Printed on Monday, April 23, 2012 as: UT takes two from Cowgirls over weekend

Nadia Taylor embraces her teammates during a 9-5 win against Missouri. Taylor was named the Big 12 Player of the Week.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns are hitting the road again. The 35-5 Texas team will make the hour-and-a-half journey up I-35 to challenge Baylor in a one-game conference stand.

The Longhorns are currently 9-3 in the Big 12 where they stand second behind rival Oklahoma. Baylor, on the other hand, is seventh in the conference with their 3-8 record.

The No. 25 Baylor Bears are coming off eight days of rest. Before that break, the Waco team had a six game home stand against Stephen F. Austin, Kansas and Texas A&M. Baylor won four of those six games but lost the last two, one against Kansas and the other to Texas A&M. With that two-game losing streak hanging over their heads, the Bears look to leader Kathy Shelton to keep them competitive. The junior leads the team in batting average (.374), runs, hits, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and stolen bases. She plans to stop the Longhorns current three-game winning streak.

Texas comes into tonight’s game after sweeping Kansas in Lawrence. Senior third-baseman Nadia Taylor leads the team, and was just named Big 12 Player of the Week for the second time this season. She hit at a .625 clip during the week against in-state rival Texas Tech. In the series against the Jayhawks, she hit .800 with three home runs and a Texas record-high five walks in one game.

Taylor is one of many Longhorns who have been hitting the ball much better. After the weekend sweep, Taylor Hoagland said that Texas is much more confident at the plate.

“I think our team hit the ball in fantastic fashion throughout the series,” Hoagland said. “We really hit well across the board this weekend. [The losing streak] was a humbling experience and a wake-up call for us. It was an eye-opener for us and made us realize there is a lot to be done. It’s a good starting point for us.”

Kansas played decently against the Longhorns. Not only did the team hit well, scoring 32 runs, they also showed their strength after losing three straight to Missouri and Texas Tech.

Texas travels to a tough stadium, however. While it may been remembered as the field that President George W. Bush and members of his staff and secret service agents often used for pick-up games, Getterman Stadium in Waco is not known for allowing home runs. Since 2007, Baylor has hit 43 of their 60 home runs in road games, highlighting the difficulty of their home stadium.

From here on out, the Longhorns have only conference games left. They know its grind time if they want to win the regular season in the Big 12 and make a push into the NCAA Tournament. This one-game stand is the last on the road for the team before they come back to Austin for a series against Oklahoma State. The fight has just begun as the post-season is coming up. Every game and every win means an opportunity to move up in the rankings and get ready for their run after the regular season ends.

Printed on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 as: Road tested Longhorns hope to keep streak alive against Bears

Courtney Craig dashes to first base after hitting a ball down the third base line. The hit was a three-run bases-loaded double in the fifth frame that gave Texas a lead it never gave up.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

The game started out slowly for the first time all season, but the Longhorns scraped together five runs in the fifth inning to come out with the 9-5 win over the Missouri Tigers in game one of a three game series.

“I think it’s definitely what we needed,” senior right fielder Courtney Craig said of their comeback victory. “It’s something that makes us different from teams in years before. We’ve been challenged [this season] and in years before we haven’t been able to come back. This year we’ve needed to see it over and over again to get us ready for more games.”

The No. 3 Longhorns extended their winning streak to 10 games Thursday evening bringing their season record to 32-2 and 6-0 in Big 12 Conference play. After a streak of non-conference competition, the Longhorns’ only remaining opponents for the 2012 season are of conference caliber.

“You have to give it to them. They kept fighting all the way until the end,” said senior left fielder Torie Schmidt. “We’ve been pretty consistently good at not letting things get to us and shaking things off. Teams have been scoring before us and we’ve stayed calm. We don’t let it get to us.”

Junior All-American pitcher Blaire Luna spent all seven innings in the circle for the Longhorns. She gave up five runs off of seven hits, the most she’s given up all season. Luna had an impressive eight strike outs in seven innings and is now 13-1 with a 1.43 ERA.

Freshman pitcher and designated player Gabby Smith scored the first run in the fifth inning to break the scoring drought for the Longhorns. The initial run was scored off a two RBI single by Schmidt with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. Schmidt went 3-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs. Craig contributed three RBIs to the win off of her 1-for-4 night.

“The pitches were just coming inside and it was jamming me up on both at-bats,” Craig said. “I went into the dugout and told myself to focus. ... I set the play up a little bit, made an adjustment, kept my hands inside and did what I needed to do for my team.”

Senior third baseman Nadia Taylor also had a successful and productive offensive night as she went 2-for-3 for the night. Taylor has been on a hot streak lately after her record setting three double performance against New Mexico last weekend.

“She has been on a streak lately and got us all a hit,” Craig said. “When one person on our team hits, the energy starts going. It’s a domino effect. Nadia really started that and the team really kept going with it.”

Game two against Missouri comes at 7 p.m. Friday evening with the conclusion coming Saturday.

Junior outfielder Taylor Hoagland watches the ball fly off her bat during batting practice at Red and Charline McCombs field. Hoagland returns from a summer campaign with the USA National Softball team where she gained valuable experience playing with some of the nation’s top athletes. The Longhorns open play tonight against Cal State Fullerton.

Nine months ago, the Longhorns completed in a dramatic fashion what was one of their best seasons in UT history. They shattered multiple school records, establishing them as a favorite going into the NCAA College World Series. Unfortunately, their season ended a little early when they lost two straight in the Regional Round right here in Austin against Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette. However, for the Longhorns, it was a learning experience from which they hope to grow.

The Texas Classic, held in Austin at Red and Charline McCombs Field, opened today and Texas has its first game of their 2012 season tonight against Cal State Fullerton. The Longhorns were ranked 19th in the preseason polls, according to ESPN.com/USA Softball, and are the only ranked team going into their first tournament.

“I think the team is ready, and I love their focus,” head coach Connie Clark said. “We have been talking since July about what we’re bringing back and coming into this year.”

Clark, who has been at Texas for 15 years, has been waiting for the start of this season since last year’s disappointing finish. One of her main focuses has been changing the competitive spirit of the team.

“We talked a lot about competitive spirit and have been talking about that ever since [last year],” Clark said. “The talent is here, but it’s just about going out and competing against the game. We had to define what competitive spirit was, and we are really still working on that ... but more than that, we are trying to teach them about behavior.”

Leadership is a big part of this year’s focus as well. A trio of seniors has been selected to captain the Longhorns. Lexy Bennett, Courtney Craig and Nadia Taylor are ready to lead the team deep into the post-season this year. They all lobbied for captain because they felt that they were all on the same page and had enough experience collectively to positively mentor their teammates.

“The seniors have been together all four years, so we obviously have that experience that some of the girls don’t have,” Bennett said. “I think we can take that experience and teach that to the other girls.”

Taylor also added, “I think all the pieces will be clicking on every cylinder, and I think as a group, we all want to work together with team unity and trust each other.”

Texas has a solid team this year, with a duo of strong freshman and multiple strong returners. Junior Taylor Hoagland, who was named to the All-Big 12 First Team for the past two years, set Texas single-season records with 15 home runs and 54 runs scored last year. Alongside her, freshman Gabby Smith is expected to be a strong contributor for the Longhorns. She comes into UT after being named her District MVP for the past two years and earning a 2011 ESPN All-American First Team selection as a utility player.

Coming off a disappointing postseason, the Longhorns are ready to get back into the game and see what they learned from the offseason. To them, this first tournament provides the opportunity to forget last season and make an important statement about this year’s team. These Longhorns are chomping at the bit to come out and be on top again.

Printed on Thursday, February 9, 2012 as: No. 19 Longhorns host season opening tourney

The Longhorns came out fast against UT-Arlington, putting up six runs in the first inning on their way to another run rule-shortened game.

Freshman Brejae Washington got the fireworks started for Texas on a solo home run to center that just snuck over the wall. The homer was the first of her collegiate career and was a different side of Washington, who is usually just a speedster for the team.

“Her riseball got up there just flat enough for me to get my hands up and pop it out. I was just looking for a base hit,” Washington said. “I didn’t even know it was going out until I had rounded first and was on my way to second. At best, I figured I might get a triple out of it. When I finally saw that it was going over, I was so excited.”

Following the Washington power display and a Taylor Thom walk, senior Amy Hooks stepped up to the plate and delivered a two-run dinger of her own.

The Longhorns weren’t done for the inning. After a pair of walks from Nadia Taylor and Torie Schmidt, junior Courtney Craig came to the plate and capped the inning off with a three-run shot of her own.

“For us to come out strong in the first inning like that got us some excitement and put us on our toes, and from there we didn’t want to get to content with that,” Washington said. “We just want to put the bat on the ball, and that’s what we were doing tonight.”

Craig had an excellent game in addition to that home run, going 3-3 at the plate with a pair of home runs and four RBIs. The second of the home runs came by the closest of margins, just sneaking over the left field foul pole.
“I kind of hesitated at the beginning, but it was fun to watch it sneak over,” Craig said.

The offense completed the onslaught in the sixth when Taylor hit a line drive single into right field that scored Washington, ending the game on the run rule and sending the Mavericks back to Arlington early.

Not to be forgotten in the wake of the offensive explosion was another complete game shutout from all-American pitcher Blaire Luna, who gave up only two hits while striking out 10 on the night, lowering her ERA to a microscopic 0.88.

“She had a good outing tonight, I think she had to work through some things, and I think it’s tough sometimes when your offense puts up six runs in the first it’s tough to stay focused,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “I thought in [the] fourth inning her focus waned a little bit, but she came right back in the fifth and sixth and put up a great performance.”

The Longhorns look to continue their offensive momentum gained from the win today against Texas Woman’s University tonight.

The Texas 2011 softball season starts tonight against Louisville in the Texas Classic at Red and Charline McCombs Field — the same place where the 2010 season ended painfully in the regional round of the NCAA tournament.

Last season ended on a sour note. First, the top-seeded Longhorns lost in the second game of the Big 12 Championship, and then they were sent home early from the NCAA tournament. It was even more disappointing because the team won the Big 12 regular season title and entered the national tournament with title aspirations.

“We built expectations through the year,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “Last year we were the underdog and built expectations as we went through. [It] felt like we fell short when we got to the NCAAs.”

The team will now use the lessons learned from the loss to improve on last year’s unwanted results.

“It didn’t end how we wanted it to, and we went back into the locker room after that and were like, ‘Is this really happening?’ Everyone has a sour feeling about that, and now it’s fuel to our fire,” said junior Nadia Taylor.

The Longhorns hope that fire burns all the way to this season’s Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

“As much as you try to teach what it takes to win, it doesn’t replace that feeling of actually being there. They can now look back on the experience and say, ‘Oh yeah, now we know what the coaches were talking about,’” Clark said.

The team uses this year’s national tournament as motivation when practicing or working out, and they even have a motto: 6-8-11, which is the date of the NCAA championship game.

“Six-eight-eleven is our end result, the last day of the World Series,” Taylor said. “We’re going to be there. There is no doubt in our mind that we will be there on 6-8-11. It’s on our mind every day; we break every huddle with 6-8-11.”

Of course, the team is careful not to look too far ahead, knowing they first need to focus on their non-conference schedule and then Big 12 play.

That quest to repeat as conference champs hinges on the Longhorns’ pitching staff, which is headlined by reigning Big 12 pitcher of the year Blaire Luna. Luna is looking to build on a stellar freshman campaign in which she maintained a .127 opponent batting average and threw 10 full-game shutouts.

“I think she’s growing so quickly as a sophomore. Freshman year was a great start for her, but she’s only getting better from there. She’s keying up on little things, so you can expect great things from her this year as well,” said junior Courtney Craig.

This is a potent team that is hitting the field with an impressive blend of speed and power, alongside some excellent pitching. Most importantly, Texas enters the season ranked No. 15 in the country, with a great starting point to repeat as Big 12 champions and eventually to play for the ultimate goal: 6-8-11.