Competitive spirit guiding Gumpf's girls into NCAA softball regionals

"She was out."

"No I wasn't."

No, it wasn't an argument in the 7th inning of a crucial game between two arch rivals.

It was two teammates arguing over the result of a play in practice.

That's how competitive the Notre Dame softball team is.

"We love chatting back and forth and getting under each other's skin to light a fire," Big East Player of the Year and Irish junior pitcher Laura Winter explains. "it's really kind of fun."

Irish coach Deanna Gumpf challenged her team at midseason to pickup their game. The Irish have, not only during games but also during practice.

"It's so competitive," Irish sophomore 2nd baseman and Penn High grad Jenna Simon says. "All the time. We're having fun but at the same time everyone wants to win all the competitions we are in."

Tuesday's competition came in batting practice as the Irish were divided into teams based on class. The juniors won while the freshmen lost. Coach Deanna Gumpf got rocked as the pitcher.

"They always rip balls off of me," Gumpf says with a laugh. "I was trying to make it move and had no luck."

Tuesday's practice was the 2nd last workout for the Irish before they depart for the NCAA Regionals. The team will practice Wednesday morning and then leave for Lexington that afternoon.

It's the 15th straight season the Irish are in regionals, but they have never won it before. They are hoping that changes this weekend.

"It would be really huge," Winter says. "I think this team can do it. We trust each other, we love each, we have a great chance."

"It would be awesome," Simon adds. "Our goal at the beginning of the year was to take this team somewhere where its never been before and this our chance to do it. We are all very excited and ready to go get it done."

Gumpf has the led the Irish to 12 straight trips to regionals as its head coach. She's ready for the next step.

"I would love to take this group further than its ever been before," Gumpf explains. "It would be fantastic but we have to do the little things right and make sure we take care of ourselves and play good softball."

It all starts Friday afternoon at 5pm against Virginia Tech in the regional opener in Lexington. Marshall and host Kentucky are the other two teams in the regional.

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