Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney is no novice when it comes to inspirational quotes and speeches.
And he knows how to beat Alabama.
The Clemson softball team left for the Tuscaloosa, Ala. Regional on Wednesday where it will have to play on the road at the No. 3 overall seed Crimson Tide despite a stellar season with an ACC regular season championship, ACC Softball Tournament Championship Game appearance and a top 10 ranking.
Swinney visited with the Tigers at McWhorter Stadium on Tuesday to share words of wisdom and hit a couple of dingers ahead of the team’s first NCAA Tournament appearance.
Head coach John Rittman got emotional talking in his press conference on Wednesday about Swinney’s speech to his team but also threw in a couple of laughs.
“Anytime you have coach Swinney talk he makes you stop and listen. He presented some great points to our team, and he definitely went into preacher mode,” Rittman said. “We felt the gambit of emotions when he was talking, one minute you wanted to knock down a wall in front of you and the next moment you were really deep in thought about your preparation.”
Senior Ansley Gilstrap is the only Tiger with NCAA Tournament experience from her time at USC Upstate in 2016 when they won the Atlantic Sun and went to the Auburn, Ala. Regional.
You could hear echoes of Swinney when she talked about how the Tigers have a chip on their shoulder after not hosting a regional.
“It can be intimidating when you are going up and facing a top team like Alabama. But it brings me back to one of the things that Dabo said that greatness isn’t just for a few it’s for everybody,” Gilstrap said. “It’s not just for Alabama, or UCLA, or Oklahoma it’s for everybody even little ‘ole Clemson. We have all the tools to beat anybody on any field.”
Gilstrap made sure to soak up every moment as Swinney talked to the team. She made sure to take notes so she could apply his inspirational style when she coaches one day.
“He said so many good things, I had my little notebook out trying to jot everything down even though I’ll be done this year,” she said. “I want to move on and share wisdom like that when I coach one day.”
As for the upcoming regional, Swinney knows a few things about beating a highly touted Alabama team and conveyed that this matchup is personal for him.
“Oh yeah, we saw a lot of Clemson-Alabama talk on social media too which is funny. But Dabo said that ‘hey this is personal for me too,’” Gilstrap said. “He got us hype we are excited, really excited and I can hear everybody cheering over there right now actually.”
Clemson opens the regional on Friday at 3:00 p.m. against Troy at Rhoads Softball Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The game is available for streaming on ESPN3 and will be carried on radio in the upstate on WCCP with The Clemson Insider alum William Qualkinbush on the call.