Each time Holly Groves (Seminole/Alabama-Birmingham) steps up to the plate for South Florida's softball team, the outfielder concentrates on just making contact.
The 22-year-old's focus has been effective. Groves, a senior, has the team's top batting average (.464), three home runs, including two grand slams, and 17 RBIs in nine games.
"I've never thought about being a power hitter," Groves said. "Each time I'm at the plate, I remember Coach (Ken) Eriksen's advice to try for a base hit or a line drive and then let it hit out."
Since transferring to USF after her freshman year, Groves has been a leader in hits, total bases and slugging percentage. Last year, she blasted 12 homers.
Groves was a standout high school basketball and softball player but realized being 5-foot-9 was not enough for college hoops. She accepted an offer to play softball for the University of Alabama in Birmingham in its inaugural season.
"I loved the coach and was really looking forward to being a part of their first season," Groves said. "Then, after my freshman year, I realized that that wasn't exactly where I wanted to stay for four years.
"I had grown up around South Florida, had friends in school there and thought going there would be a good transition," she said.
Groves found the biggest challenge to be the schedule, with sometimes as many as 10 games in a week.
"One of the biggest improvements I've seen in Holly is that she has matured tremendously," said Eriksen, who's in his eighth year at the Bulls' helm. "Holly has become very responsible about the team, her academics and her future.
"We recruited her for a while but didn't know how serious she was. We backed off and later gave her the opportunity when she decided to transfer."
Groves started playing when she was 9 and credits her father, Michael, with teaching her the fundamentals necessary to succeed beyond high school.
"At the college level, all the players are competitive and want to win," Groves said. "It's a whole different level of skill, and it's been an exciting challenge."
In her final season, Groves hopes to help lead the Bulls to a winning record and strong showing in Conference USA. "I think it's great that we've been projected to win the conference, and it's an honor for someone to say we'll finish first," she said. "Now, we just need to go out and prove that we deserved that."
MORE SOFTBALL: South Florida sophomore Kattrina Dowd (Countryside) is second on the team in hitting (.458 average) and has two home runs.
USF junior first baseman Carmela Liwag (Pinellas Park) is fourth in batting (.333).
Saint Leo junior second baseman Denyve Duncan (Dunedin) was the Sunshine State Conference Player of the Week after batting .611 in five games.
Freshman catcher Erin Brunt (Clearwater) has a .286 average for Saint Leo.
Auburn senior pitcher Kristen Keyes (Clearwater/Central Florida CC) is 2-2 with a 0.51 ERA in 271/3 innings and recently tied the school record for career wins at 35.
BASKETBALL: Freshman guard Jennifer Hansen (Seminole) was the Patriot League Rookie of the Week for the second time this season after scoring 14 for Army in a win over Holy Cross.
East Carolina's Erroyl Bing (Largo) recorded 10 points and 10 rebounds in a 59-57 victory over South Florida.
SWIMMING: Senior Kristen Nardozzi (Northeast) won the 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley in a New Hampshire victory over the University of Maine.
Sophomore Heather Jennings (Lakewood) won the 500 freestyle for Randolph-Macon Woman's College in a meet against Hollins University.
TRACK: Senior Alexis McGaffagan (Largo) was the Conference USA Female Track Athlete of the Week after setting a league and South Florida record in the pentathlon with 3,893 points.