During the shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19, Arizona went an impressive 22-3 with some help by its freshman class.
For outfielder Janelle Meono, who hails from Hacienda Heights, Calif., success came early during Arizona’s fall ball games in October, where she batted 9-for-23, good for a batting average of .281, impressing fans and coaches with her speed at the plate.
Like most freshmen, Meono struggled at the start of the season hitting well below .200 and unable to get on base to showcase her blazing speed.
As the season went along, Meono was building confidence with every passing game, eventually ending the season with a batting average of .205 showing a glimpse of what Arizona fans might see during the 2021 season.
Here’s a Q&A from the interview that covers the abrupt end to the season, and what Meono took away from the experience.
How was your first college experience?
JM: “I’ve always dreamed of playing college softball, and it was so much fun and even more then I could’ve ever imagined, especially playing with such an elite group of people. I think that’s the best part. We have such a good group of girls and just playing with them game in and game out was so much fun. Plus, the coaches are amazing, so it was a great but shortened experience for my freshman season.”
How would your describe your current class in one word?
JM: “I think we are extremely competitive. We always want to leave it all out on the field. We don’t like losing.”
If you had to describe yourself, how would you do that?
JM: “That’s a tough one. I know I’m extremely competitive. I love the game. I hate losing. I guess because I’m not that big in size I’m usually overlooked. So I do enjoy proving myself to people and showing them that I can play. So, I’m extremely competitive and driven. Simply put, I love this sport.”
Although you hit .205 this season in 16 games, it seemed like you were starting to heat up. What was it like making that adjustment to the college game?
JM: “The biggest adjustment for me was the mental aspect. I think that’s one of the things I struggle with most. And again, you can see at the beginning I did struggle with it, but I was starting to learn to play, just go out there and play my game like I know I can and everyone knows I can. I just continued to trust in my skills, my ability. I guess you could say I did my best to not think about it as much and just went out and played my game.”
When you take a look back at this season, what are some highlights that you are going to remember most?
JM: “Most definitely playing against Team USA (with Arizona catcher Dejah Mulipola). I think that was so much fun. That was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever been apart of, and had the chance to play in.”
What was it like getting a hit off of Olympic pitchers like you did?
JM: “That moment was, it was something else. Like, I was so excited. And when I got to first base I was talking to Mo (Mercado) and I told her how excited I was. I could not stop smiling. It was just crazy.”
How has Coach Caitlin Lowe helped you develop as a player?
JM: “Well actually, fun fact, Caitlin Lowe was my very first slapping coach right when I turned to the left side at 9-years-old she was my first slapping coach. But while being in college, she has helped me so much like working on shortening my game by bouncing the ball more, and also with my power slapping. She just pushes me to be better very day.”
What did you learn from the upper classmen during your first year at Arizona?
JM: “I learned most that if you go out there and prove yourself every day at practice, they’re gonna show you respect and I think in the fall, I did earn some respect from them. The seniors made everything so much better. They’re just extremely talented and everyone knows that. Playing with them really pushed me. They pushed me to get better and be better.”
How excited are you about getting another chance to play with the seven returning seniors?
JM: “I think that’s absolutely insane, like I’m so excited especially given the fact that a lot of us came from the same travel organization. We already all knew each other and so the chemistry was already there. It’s going to be something big next season.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.