Player Profile: Hanna Hull on gameday preparation

For two-time National Player of the Year and 2020 ODAC Softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year Hanna Hull, game day is all about confidence and consistency.

The Virginia Wesleyan softball team’s season was unfortunately cut short in early March of last year due to concerns of COVID-19. The Marlins were coming off an eight-game winning streak and hoping to make their third appearance in the national championship in four years.

The senior pitcher has made the decision to return to Virginia Wesleyan for a fifth year to pursue an MBA and one more national title.

Hull is recognized for her consistent tenacious play, especially in high-stakes games, through her countless accolades reflecting her hard work on the field and in the classroom. The Marlins have been a force in the ODAC and are no strangers to winning streaks.

So what does the groundwork look like for a player on a team that never fails to perform at a high caliber?

The day before a game is a little different from their normal practices as the Marlins will practice based on the opposing team. They focus on specific players, a strategy that prepares them for any adjustments they may have to make to their play. “We take note of their tendencies and we’ll throw a lot of this pitch or that pitch and be just ready for any situation,” Hull said.

On the morning of game day, the team goes out and gets breakfast together in small groups before heading straight to the locker room to get ready.

The time spent in the locker room before a game sets the tone for the rest of the day. The softball team uses this time to listen to music, typically throwbacks they can all sing together, as they get dressed to play.

“We all do our hair a certain way and we stick to it. The person that braids your hair is the person that braids your hair every single game day and we don’t switch up,” senior Jess Goldyn said.

Hull is known to be more particular than superstitious by simply doing the same thing before every game start to finish. She puts her uniform on in the same order while getting her hair braided in the same style by the same person before going out and doing her typical warm up.

“I’m very particular in terms of people who catch me and our upperclassmen like Jess and Daja have done a really good job with that. They know how I like things and how I like to throw. A big thing for me is rhythm and they kind of get me in that rhythm,” Hull said.

Music helps Hull and the rest of the team with rhythm and getting into a groove as you can often see them singing and dancing. The pitchers have music played over the loud speaker while they are warming up and “Hanna always gets that one song she picked,” Goldyn said.

“Last year I had ‘Disco Inferno’ and the year before that was ‘This is Why I’m Hot’ so it’s just funny songs that are kind of older and I know everyone knows. When I turn around before a game and I see all the outfielders dancing and singing,  it’s kind of a way to make me less stressed. When I look over and see them it just reminds me that we’re all out here enjoying ourselves and each other so it’s definitely a way for me to have some fun before starting the game,” said Hull.

After warming up, the Marlins run down the line high-fiving each other. Hull and [Julia] Sinnett are the last two to come on. “Hanna throws it up and then Julia catches it and ‘hits dem folks’ before we all run down the line again,” Goldyn said. After changing jerseys, the Marlins get in a huddle and wait in the outfield for Coach [Brandon] Elliot. The team claps and chants “Coach E Coach E Coach E” as he runs into the middle of the circle.

“We do the same things and make the same jokes with Coach every time. When you play so many games in a season it’s much easier to have fun when you know what to expect and we’re really good about maintaining consistency,” Hull said.

“I try to leave most of [the team] alone on game day unless it’s a bigger game and I think they might need a little more motivation. I’ll usually try to get under [Hull’s] skin a little bit.. she seems to pitch a lot better when she’s angry at me,” Elliot said.

Before the Super Regional in 2017, “[Hull] looked down at me and asked me what my problem was. I just looked up at her and she’s like ‘I don’t know why you’re so nervous we got this’ so you got a freshman telling a veteran coach to stop being nervous,” Elliot said.

“I feel like before a game it’s important to have confidence in yourself and confidence in the team and know at the end of the day there’s always another game and always room to improve and to continue that,” Hull said.

“She’s the best there ever has been and I don’t think a lot of people understand that. She’s literally the best and I’m not talking at Virginia Wesleyan. I’m talking she’s the best there’s ever been,” Elliot said.

By Aj Adan