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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveMarch 18, 2021, 9:31pm
Life is good for Jocelyn Alo and the undefeated University of Oklahoma softball team.
Alo, a 2017 graduate of Campbell High School, is in her fourth season with the Sooners and it's shaping up to be the best one yet for the two-time All-American.
"It's been crazy to see how fast these four years go by because I literally feel like I just got here not too long ago," said Alo, who earned NFCA Freshman of the Year honors in 2018. "I feel like I just graduated high school not too long ago, but it's crazy how fast time flies by when you're having a blast."
And when you're winning.
OU has won 156 games and lost just 15 during Alo's tenure on the team — a .912 winning percentage. In her first two seasons the Sooners went to the Women's College World Series twice, but a national title has eluded the program since 2017 — the year before Alo arrived in Norman. They were oh-so close in 2019, reaching the best-of-three championship series only to be swept by UCLA — the only time the Sooners lost back-to-back games all season.
"It was tough," Alo said via telephone Wednesday afternoon, just after she and her OU teammates had wrapped up practice.
Last year got off to a promising start as the Sooners were riding a seven-game win streak and had racked up a 20-4 record in non-conference play before the season came to an abrupt end due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I definitely went into the 2020 season wanting to just get after it and then to be shut down was kind of crappy, but honestly over quarantine I had no motivation. I was not wanting to do anything because it was a really big adjustment to have softball taken away from you, so I was not in the right state of mind," Alo disclosed.
Looking back nearly a year later and she wishes she had taken more initiative early on during the shut down.
"I wish I had done a little bit more over summer and quarantine just to stay in shape, but I had no motivation to, but once it got closer to returning to school and closer to season, I was ready to get after it," Alo explained.
She continued, "It was kind of a gradual thing. Honestly, fall is the hardest part of the year — it's all the heavy lifting, all the heavy duty stuff — but I was set on losing some weight in the fall and once I started seeing the number go down, I was like, ‘OK, this is working,' so I started being more invested in what I was doing and started to change my diet some and was just really focusing on how I can improve as a hitter from the previous season."
After earning All-Big 12 First Team honors in both her freshman and sophomore years, Alo put together yet another solid campaign in the shortened 2020 season. She had a .427 batting average, led the team with 61 total bases and had eight home runs, 21 runs batted in and 22 runs scored.
But she sought improvements in her game in preparation for the 2021 season and she watched a lot of video of herself in doing so.
"I was working to improve my posture a little more and kind of how I was going about things, just watching and breaking down my swing and also just my mindset. I don't let the outcomes get to me — at least, I don't think so — but I'm just up there and I'm having fun and I really could care less what happens, because at the end of the day I know I'm going to have another chance to get stuff done," Alo said.
She added that her mental approach is not necessarily in response to the past year's events, but rather one that she developed over the course of her softball career, through her vast experiences playing the game at the high school, club and collegiate levels.
"I wouldn't say it was impacted for me from COVID, but I used to really care what other people thought and what other people wrote about me and I realized how much of that unnecessary added pressure that put on myself, so honestly right now all I know is what I'm capable of and I know all the things I can do, so I'm just really locked into myself and not paying attention to outside sources," Alo said.
Locked in, she most definitely is.
Alo's statistics this season are through the roof. Through OU's first 22 games, Alo leads the nation in total bases (95), home runs (19) and RBIs (49). She ranks second in slugging percentage (1.484), fifth in hits (35), 15th in batting average (.547) and 18th in on-base percentage (.608). Her 2.23 runs driven in per game is the fourth-best mark in the country.
"I think our thing is just to attack people no matter who we're playing, if it's a big game or whatever we just attack every single opponent that we face and really, we just want to dominate everyone and I think it shows that we've been doing that but we know that at the end of the day we always have something to work on so we're not complacent in that sense as well," said Alo, who is on a program-best 36-game hitting streak dating back to last season.
The Sooners (22-0) went 4-0 at the Hall of Fame Tournament in Oklahoma City over the weekend and are a consensus No. 1 in four national polls (USA Today/NFCA Coaches, D1Softball.com, ESPN.com/USA Softball, Softball America).
"I think it's been a really good start for us honestly, just letting the freshman get their feet whet a little bit and obviously the veterans just kind of getting back into the swing of things knowing how much of a toll it takes on our bodies and stuff, so it's been a good start," said Alo, who was selected as Big-12 Player of the Week, the conference announced Tuesday.
Alo, who bats second in the lineup, went on a tear with six home runs, going 7 for 17 at the plate with 10 RBIs and 25 total bases. She hit .412 with a 1.471 slugging percentage in OU's five games last week. Alo has hit at least one home run in six consecutive games and in 18 of her team's 22 contests.
"I think there's still stuff we can improve upon defensively and with hitting, but I think we're in a really good spot right now and I think we're still on the upward climb; I don't think we've hit our peak at all," she expressed.
Not only has Alo been productive, she's been a mainstay in the Sooners' lineup. Alo has started all 167 games she has played in and has missed just three games during her OU career. She has started 19 games in left field this season and the other three as the designated player.
But there are no individual achievements that Alo is after, just one team goal.
"Ring on my finger," she stated simply. "I haven't really set goals for myself honestly, but I know the things that I'm capable of and if I don't end up reaching those and we win the national championship, I am cool with that."
Alo said among those who have been most influential on her softball career have been former OU teammates and All-Americans Shay Knighten and Falepolima Aviu, along with a former club teammate in Amanda Lorenz, an All-American herself at the University of Florida.
Now she finds herself as the decorated veteran that teammates look up to — and look to.
"Honestly, as a freshman I was scared to say stuff so I was kind of more of a follower in that sense. My sophomore year I was kind of in a leadership role, but not really because we still had a really big senior class, so they really taught me a lot of good things," Alo said. "Now this year I would say I'm very much in the leadership role. I know that if anyone ever needed to talk to someone about something — anything, not even softball related — that I would be there for them and also I know that when I talk, people will listen and that's just like a respect thing, so I respect people just as much as they respect me."
As hot of a start as it has been for the Sooners — who have won the last eight Big-12 Conference championships — Alo and her teammates are keen to keep their focus on the task at hand and not the end of the road.
"We want to win the national championship, but we're not going to look that far ahead because what really matters is what's in front of us right now," Alo expressed. "It's obviously in the back of our heads, but we're not really thinking about and we're just working on improving every step that we go, staying with what's in front of us right now and that's the next game."
What's next for Alo and the Sooners is a three-game exhibition series this weekend against Team Mexico, which is preparing to take part in the Tokyo Olympics this summer. It will be the final tune-up for OU before it opens Big-12 play against Iowa State next weekend.
"I'm super excited to play them," Alo said of Team Mexico, which includes a pair of her former teammates in Sydney Romero and Taylor McQuillin. All three played on the same club team, the OC Batbusters. Romero also played at OU, while McQuillon was a four-time All-Pac-12 pitcher at Arizona.
"I think it'll be a good three-game series that's going to prepare us for going into Big-12 and I'm super excited for the pitchers that we'll face. I played with Taylor McQuillin and Sydney Romero so I'm excited to elevate to their level and to see what the international stage of softball is all about," Alo said.
But the Human Resources major is also getting the job done in the classroom. She earned Academic All-Big-12 Second Team honors in 2019 and is on pace to graduate with a bachelor's degree this fall. Alo plans to return to the softball team for a fifth season next spring, while starting work on a master's degree.
Time management, she says, is key.
"Definitely just knowing how much time you need to put into school and softball and the extra work with softball — and a social life, if you would like to have one — but yeah, it's a lot to take on, but I think that with the right guidance and the right people around you that you can definitely do that and I think OU does a really good job of providing that for us," Alo said. "We have academic advisors that are always on us and our coaches and support staff that are also there for us. We have nutritionists and strength and conditioning coaches, so you're in very good hands here."
While Alo would like nothing more than to help bring a fifth national title back to Norman, her home state is never far from her mind and always close to her heart.
"It means a lot just to come from such a small island and to be able to make it out here is a lot and I obviously thank my family for what they do to put me in the spot that I am in, but I'm also just happy to represent Hawaii and show other Hawaii kids, boys or girls, that you can make it with hard work and dedication and to go above and beyond. I don't think we get the same opportunities that mainland kids do, so just take advantage of every opportunity and have a blue-collar mindset to things, that will definitely take you far," said Alo, who attended Kahuku as a freshman and sophomore before finishing out high school at Campbell for her final two years.
Alo is a three-time All-Hawaii selection in softball, including a two-time first team pick. She was part of two state championships for the Sabers and earned All-Hawaii Division I Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2017.
"I just think of how much I've grown from then," said Alo, who also won an individual state wrestling championship at 184 pounds as a sophomore at Kahuku.
"Obviously I thought I was really good then, but just to see how much I've gone above and beyond that is crazy, whether it's on the softball field, on the mat or in the classroom and I definitely think that high school sports are super important and I'm kind of bummed that they're not playing this year, but it's super important for reps obviously and Hawaii kids have a very good athletic ability about themselves and I think that they just come to compete every single day, so I loved playing high school in Hawaii, for sure," she said.
Alo, who was inducted into the HHSAA's Hall of Honor in 2017, added that her time in high school established a solid work ethic that has been at the foundation of her continued success at the collegiate level.
"I think learning how much more I could get out of myself was the most important lesson, like wrestling — that was a crazy time in my life — but how that also transferred over to softball and just how everything ties together and if you really want to go to another level how much more time you're going to have to put into wrestling, or softball, and how dedicated you have to be if you want to have success in them," she said.
Alo and the Sooners host Team Mexico Friday at 1 p.m. Hawaii time. The final two games of the series, Saturday and Sunday, will both start at 7 a.m.
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