Sutcliffe bringing winning culture

By Keelen Holcomb

Softball (32-16) is having one of its best seasons since 1999 when it went 35-19, with head coach Christina Sutcliffe helping the team improve every year since she took over in 2013.

The Huskies have finished with at least 26 wins in all of Sutcliffe’s four years at NIU, and finished over .500 for the first time in her tenure in 2015 (28-25). The team has emerged as the top team in the MAC this season, capped off by a 14-game winning streak.

Q: How did you make the transition from being an assistant coach at [one of the top programs in the MAC at] Miami University for seven seasons… and keep the same winning mindset at NIU [a program that was struggling]?

A: I think I walked into a culture that was already established and just needed a little bit fine tuning. [I] was able to continue on what NIU already established. Being apart of the conference prior to coming here gave me a comfort level that allowed me to have the confidence to know what it took to win here. That absolutely helped me out in recruiting, to know what type of player would succeed in this conference. The players that continue to come in have to keep raising the bar.

Q: Senior catcherEmily Naegele is an impact player on your team and is having a great year. How do you view her progress going forward?

A: Emily has been doing a great job all year for us, doing a really nice job offensively. I think something that gets overlooked for her is what she does for us behind the plate and it’s tough to steal off of her. Our pitchers have confidence with her catching and she is kind of an all-around good player for us.

Q: Having a 14-game win streak mid-season was really great for the program. Where do you think most of your success came during that period, and do you think it helped your team?

A: I think any win is going to help your team, so that’s always a key to our success. I think it just gave us confidence that we can beat whoever we are facing and kind of got us some momentum carrying back in MAC play.

Q: Being the top team in the MAC West conference with a 12-5 conference record, how do you feel going toward the MAC tournament? Are there any conference matchups you guys are looking forward too in the tournament?

A: I think the MAC is so evenly matched that every game we play there is going to be hard and there are going to be a lot of one-run games. It’s nice going into the last two weekends with [things] completely in our control, and we don’t have to rely on anybody else losing. We can just play our ball and hope that we play the best ball we can and stay on top.