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Valencia's Karlie Habitz: Mind over matters

Viking junior’s new mentality helping team weather adversity

Posted: May 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Valencia junior catcher Karlie Habitz’s improved mind-set has helped the Vikings during a trying Foothill League season and to a pair of wins in the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs. She’s hitting .395 with 26 RBIs and four home runs.

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Players often look for a competitive advantage.

Valencia junior catcher Karlie Habitz found hers within herself.

Habitz admits that in the past she was prone to get weighed down by mistakes.

Not anymore.

It's a good thing, because during the Vikings' roller-coaster season, they've needed her positive mind-set more than ever.

"We hit some points in the road where we thought, ‘Wow, this season is going to be horrible,'" Habitz says. "We grouped together and we just overcame it and thought, ‘We can do this, we are a strong team.' We have the talent, and we have what it takes."

Valencia entered Foothill League play as the 10-time defending league champions and winners of a pair of preleague tournaments - Tournament of Champions and Stu Penter Classic.

Expectations were high.

But when team ace Carly Mortensen went down with a forearm injury two games into Foothill play, the pitching carousel began.

Senior Nicole Miller and sophomore Sydney Mundell both spent time in the circle, bringing completely different styles, mentalities and repertoires.

Habitz, who calls all her team's pitches, was there to help ease their transition as they attempted to fill the void.

"I think both Sydney and Nicole respect her," says Vikings head coach Donna Lee. "(Habitz) takes the thinking out of the game for both pitchers."

As a catcher, Habitz continually functions as a counselor of sorts.

If the pitcher throws a bad pitch, Habitz is there to pick her up.

She focuses on positivity and is a constant source of encouragement.

"You are not going to have to worry about Karlie adjusting to pitchers because she knows what to do, and she keeps all the pitchers grounded," Mortensen says.

"She calls a good pitch for anyone that is out there, and she makes any pitcher that is out there feel comfortable, no matter who it is.

"Pitchers are head cases, and she definitely helps all of us," Mortensen adds.

Unfortunately for Valencia, which peaked at No. 4 in the nation according to the USA Today/National Fastpich Coaches Association poll earlier in the season, a late loss to Saugus ended their league-title hopes. It was the Vikings' fourth defeat in Foothill, and they ultimately finished third.

The outcome was disappointing for everyone on the team, but as the last softball team in the league still standing in the playoffs, their championship focus has not been deterred. It's just shifted to winning the CIF-Southern Section Division I crown.

"As soon as the playoffs hit, we were like, ‘It's a new season, time to start over again,'" Habitz says. "We came in mentally strong."

Mind-set is key with Habitz, and it is something she has worked to master.

Acting on the recommendation of her travel ball coach from So Cal Choppers, Dean Fausett, she picked up a copy of the book, "The Mental Game of Baseball," by Karl Kuehl and H. A. Dorfman.

"It tells you you need to block out negativity coming into you," she says. "Whatever you do, you have to think positively. If you make a mistake, it happens. It's a game of failures. You have to get over that failure. You have to go into the next thing 100 percent."

For Habitz and Valencia, that next thing was the playoffs.

Habitz is 4-for-8 with an RBI and a walk through two postseason wins, including a 10-1 victory over Edison of Huntington Beach on Thursday and a 1-0 edging of Vista Murrieta on Tuesday.

On the season, she is hitting .395 with 26 RBIs and four home runs, including a pair of preleague grand slams.

As a sophomore, she hit .298 with 10 RBIs and one home run.

Habitz says the improvement is a matter of positivity.

"Last year, I will admit was not my greatest year," she says. "This year, I feel this is where I should be."

Teammate and close friend Justine Sibthorp has also seen the shift.

Before each game, she says she sees Habitz spend some time by herself mentally preparing.

Where once she battled negativity, the junior now fills with productivity.

"Oh yeah, last year she definitely struggled from that," says Sibthorp, who has also read the book. "She has improved a lot, and that book helped a lot."

Habitz has a lot to be positive about these days.

Not only is her team rolling in the playoffs, she's already locked up her future.

In July 2010, Habitz verbally committed to Penn State, where she plans to study Kinesiology.

She's already using some of those skills as a member of Valencia's athletic training program.

"If my arch is hurting, I know that I need to stretch my calf or something," Habitz says. "My teammates ask, ‘Hey, this is hurting.'"

Her team was hurting coming out of Foothill League.
Not anymore.

Now, there's an encompassing feeling of positivity and focus.

A big reason for that is Habitz.

"If we come out winners, good," she says. "If we don't, as long as we know we did everything we could, I feel we should be happy."

 

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