Wednesday, May 14, 2014
In 2010 Whitney Kiihnl was a sophomore pitcher for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball team, She won 33 games that season and was named both the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year to go with her 2009 A-Sun Freshman of the Year Award. She was also the mainstay of a three-pitcher rotation that led the Lady Bisons to their first NCAA Regional, finishing 2-2 in the Tuscaloosa Regional with two wins over UAB and two losses against the No. 1-seeded Alabama. Kiihnl is in the second year of work for her degree to become a physician's assistant and has helped as a graduate assistant part-time this season with Harding University's first softball team. She spent some time this week with lipscombsports.com to talk about the 2010 team and send `good luck' wishes to the 2014 team as it heads to the Knoxville Regional this weekend.
What years did you play softball at Lipscomb? Who were your coaches?
"I played from 2008 through 2012. Kristin Ryman was the head coach. Lexi Myers was the pitching coach.
"I graduated in 2012 with a major in biology."
What do you remember the most about playing in the Tuscaloosa Regional in 2010?
"I remember all of the excitement. There were some nerves but there was excitement more so of being on that big stage. I remember it being very special for our seniors. It was a lot of fun.
"I didn't really feel the pressure. It was like, hey, this is fun."
As a sophomore how did you deal with being the mainstay on a three-pitcher staff in the team's first NCAA Regional?
"I really didn't think about it. We weren't supposed to win. We weren't supposed to beat Alabama. We were playing the No. 1 team in the nation in Alabama.
"We didn't talk about playing Alabama. We knew all season that we had a chance to be in a regional. We just had to play our best. We all believed we could beat Alabama if we played the top level of ball that we could. We gave it our best shot."
Why did you choose to attend Lipscomb to play softball?
"There were a number of different factors. Growing up in a small town (Batesville, Mississippi) I always wanted to live in a bigger city and get that perspective. Lipscomb was a Christian school and I wanted to get a Christian education. I wanted to have the positive influence of teachers and coaches around me
"I really didn't know what to expect from softball coming in. I just did the best I could. My mentality was that if I worked hard I could be good enough to be a top-level pitcher. I had that confidence in myself."
What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?
"I guess there are two different aspects. Going to the NCAA Regional was huge. So was winning the Atlantic Sun Championship in 2010. They are moments in sports you will always remember.
"But it was also about being with my teammates and friends."
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?
"I would have to say the 2010 senior class. They were very encouraging to me (as juniors) when I got to Lipscomb my freshman year. Being a freshman, and having your upper classmen believe in you, really makes a difference."
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?
"I think back about how immature I was then, and I still am. I learned throughout college to love people no matter what their background is, to care more about their souls than anything else.
"I made a lot of mistakes and I still make them. I am still learning to care deeply about people and just loving people, basically. Softball was a big part of our lives, but the spiritual aspects of our lives was the most important.
"One thing I liked about Lipscomb was the service opportunities. That really opened my eyes to look for the opportunities to serve others. That had an impact in my life too."
Who was your favorite professor? Why?
"I hate to point to just one or two teachers but Dr. Kent Gallaher and Dr. Jon Lowrance were just great, caring people.
"Dr. Gallaher wasn't one of my professors, but he was my advisor. I may have shed a few tears in his office."
Where do you live now?
Searcy, Arkansas, where I am attending school to be a physician's assistant. I am in my second year. I will graduate in December.
"I tried to help with the softball team this year at Harding. I did get to travel with them at the end of the season. I tried to go to practice when I could. I really didn't get to coach all that much. I tried in the fall to give them some drills to do. I was more a cheerleader and an encourager."
What would you like to say to the Lady Bisons as they return to the regionals this weekend?
"First of all, I want to tell them how proud I am of them. It is awesome how well they play as a team. I like their attitude.
"The seniors on the team were freshmen when I was a junior. I can't tell you how happy I am that they got to the regional. I think they can win. They have to go in there with that confidence. They are a special team. I think they will do well."
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