The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Zia senior stays optimistic


April 15, 2015


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In her four years playing softball at Eastern New Mexico University, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Velasquez has had to deal with a lot of change.

She’s done it all with optimism and a smile.

“When I came here, I was an infielder for the first two years,” said Velasquez, who is hitting .294 this season. “But we got some new players and the infield positions became solidified, so I moved to the outfield. I get to play more now, and it’s fun and exciting.”

In addition to position changes, she’s also had to deal with a coaching change as Kristen Soukup took over in 2014. Soukup has a great deal of respect for Velasquez and her commitment to the Zias.

“She’s a really good leader verbally and also by demonstrating on the field, but the best thing about her is that she’s willing to do anything to help the team,” Soukup said. “She’s had to play third, short, left field, center field, and she just takes it and does the best she can.”

Velasquez has been on the field a lot this season, playing in a team-high 38 games and starting 35.

Coming into this season, Velasquez didn’t have any personal goals, instead putting the team’s goals first.

“I just wanted to play,” she said. “Our team goal was to make the (Lone Star) conference playoffs, but in order to do that we’d have to win out.”

Entering her junior year, Velasquez saw a huge change when Soukup became the coach.

“The difference between Soukup and our last coach is day and night,” Velasquez said. “The coach before was very quiet. Soukup is very intense, but she wants us to win and you can see that.”

The Zias looked pretty good as they headed into the Lone Star Conference season with a 13-7 record, but they’ve struggled in LSC play, going just 3-17, to bring their overall record to 16-24.

“In reality, if you look at our record we started off really well,” Soukup said. “But it’s sort of a culture change. You learn to win, then you think you’re always going to win and you never expect to lose, and that’s kind of what we’re still learning. You have to take the same approach in every game.

“We lost some games we should’ve won this season, but when we play the best teams in our conference we’ve stepped up and played at their level and won a few of those games. So it’s frustrating to be up and down like that.”

One of the reasons the Zias have struggled in conference play is that the LSC is one of the top conferences in NCAA Division II, according to Soukup.

“We’re generally going to have a team from our conference in the national championship game,” she said. “West Texas (A&M), Angelo (State and) Midwestern (State) are all good teams.

“One thing our conference does well is pound the ball, so unless you have a lights-out pitcher you’d better score some runs.”

Despite their record and the way this season is going, there is optimism for the future, and Soukup sees huge improvement from the way the team was last season.

“This season we’re putting a lot more runs on the board, and overall there’s less teaching and more working and executing what we do,” she said. “That’s something that’s different from last year to this year.”


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