By Geoff Herberg, CSUN Media Relations
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- Fresh off helping lead Team USA Softball to a gold medal at the Pan Am Games, CSUN softball head coach Tairia Flowers has come home to a house with no bats or balls. She knows she left them for her nearly two-year-old son Jayce to start honing his craft at the family trade, but now she can't find them.
Basketballs are aplenty as her husband, CSUN women's basketball head coach Jason Flowers, is set to begin his second season with the Matadors in just a few weeks. But when she came back from Guadalajara, Mexico, with yet another gold medal earned on the diamond, she just cannot seem to locate her tools of the trade.
However, after a long and successful summer, Flowers thinks the gear will reappear as soon as Jayce begins to understand all it is that his mom has accomplished.
In winning its eighth Pan Am gold medal, Team USA did with so with flair and performance that easily quelled any doubts about the composition of the team. The club thumped Canada 11-1 in the gold medal game and also took a 12-5 run-rule victory over their rivals from the north in which Team USA overcame a five-run deficit.
"This has been a very successful summer and I am grateful to have been a part of such a terrific group of players, coaches and staff," Flowers said. "I think this team really proved its merit throughout the summer. After a somewhat disappointing finish at the Canada Cup, this team learned from its mistakes and performed exceptionally against top competition."
That was certainly apparent at the Pan Am Games. As a team, they hit an impressive .428 throughout the week outscoring opponents 78-8. The pitching staff held opponents to a .145 average and recorded five shutout victories. The performance marks the eighth gold medal earned by Team USA in the Pan American Games since they debuted in 1979, seven of those being consecutive (1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011).
"The girls had a lot of fun on the field and in the village and I think that helped make them more comfortable," Flowers added. "One thing that I think was great to see was that everyone played and contributed to the team's success. When everyone knows they are going to get their crack, it helped make us unstoppable."
Flowers credits a good portion of that momentum to the staff she worked with, led by South Florida head coach and Team USA head coach Ken Eriksen. Arkansas head coach Mike Larabee and Oregon head coach Mike White also were on staff and Flowers enjoyed learning not only from them, but from the players as well.
"I feel like I learned a lot from this experience, from the meetings with the coaches to working with the players," Flowers said. "I also think we got a lot of momentum going when we left Canada on the field in our first win against them. Kelly Grieve, a former standout at the University of Tennessee, delivered a blast to end the game that had a certain pop to it that I think represents how well we performed at the tournament."
Having now returned home to Northridge to being preparing for the 2012 NCAA season, Flowers is excited about how things went in the fall and how that might carry over into spring.
"The fall went well and the team is starting to understand what it takes to focus throughout an entire game and practice," she added. "We're getting better every day, whether it be in the weight room, in conditioning or on the field. I am excited for February to roll around and see what this team is capable of doing."
One group Flowers especially highlights is her two assistant coaches, Caitlin Benyi and Tia Meza. Even with all the requirements that Team USA demands and the fact that volunteer assistant coach Natasha Watley is on a never-ending world tour playing and promoting the game, Flowers believes she is blessed by having such a dedicated group of coaches on board.
"I don't think I could have asked for a better staff," Flowers said. "Both Coach Benyi and Coach Meza bring great knowledge and enthusiasm to our team. They are well organized and know how things need to be done. For me, it's both exciting and reassuring to know that while I continue to build on my own coaching career, things are being well taken care of at Northridge."
So back at home, she's not too worried about the lack of balls and bats for to Jayce play with. She figures she's got more than enough stories to share with him that he'll never even see the hardwood.