By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former LSU Softball great, Sahvanna Jaquish. Her home town is Highland, California where she was a four-year letter winner for Debbie Garcia at Redlands East Valley High School. She won Maxpreps First Team All-American honors in 2012 and 2013, as well as the Citrus Belt League's MVP award as a junior. (Making that the first time a junior has ever won that honor.) ... Jaquish also helped her team win a couple of California state championships.. She also lettered in Volleyball.
She made an immediate impact on her arrival at LSU, becoming the team leader in batting average (.341), home runs (17), RBI (55), slugging percentage (.699) and total bases (121), while finishing second in doubles (9) and on-base percentage (.445).. Jaquish would then help a talented LSU squad reach the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City three straight seasons in a row. She would finish her career in Baton Rouge as the only athlete in LSU history to win All-American honors all four years
Since her LSU career, Sahvanna has gone on to play professional softball in the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch League), as well as winning a pair of gold metals with team USA.
Q - Favorite color?
Jaquish - That depends on the day. I'm very much an emotional person when it comes to colors. Yellow makes me happy. Red helps me focus, so I think it just depends on the day, yea. I'm very weird when it comes to that. I'm usually pretty obsessed about getting my nails done before a game, and I heard that "blue" helped you calm down. So I would usually get blue, and people would ask, "You're purple and gold, why are your nails blue?" ..
Q - Favorite food?
Jaquish - Thai food and Sushi
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Jaquish - Derek Jeter
Q - Favorite Music Artist?
Jaquish - Oh man, that's hard.. Can I pass? I just don't know. I'm all over the place, I like country, I like old school.... Anything that sounds good...
Q - Favorite Movie?
Jaquish - Remember the Titans
Q - Favorite Actor?
Jaquish - Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Q - Favorite Pro Team?
Jaquish - Los Angeles Angels
Q - I see you're from Highland, California. Did you grow up there?
Jaquish - Yes
Q - When you were a little kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Jaquish - The best pitcher in the world. Yea, I really wanted to be a pitcher. But my dad told me that I had to learn to throw overhand first. So I got really good at that and became a catcher instead.
Q - I see that you attended Redlands East Valley High School. While you were there, did you play multiple sports?
Jaquish - Yes, I played volleyball and softball.
Q - Could you tell us a little about you high school softball coach?
Jaquish - Her name is Debbie Garcia, and she was appreciative of my skill set, but she also pushed me to be a leader. Which was great because I don't think anyone really taught that, like how to be a leader at that time. It was just like,.. Oh, you're the best player, so you must be the leader of the team.... But she had a different definition of being a selfless leader, being a servant leader. So I appreciate her for that. When I went to LSU out of high school I was named captain of the team, so I think that really helps to have that mind set.
Q - Tell us a little about your accomplishments during you athletic career in high school?
Jaquish - I was the only junior to win MVP of the League ever. Senior year I was MVP of the League as well. Then we won CBL. We went to the playoffs and won one game. I think it was called the thirteen year curse, because we had never won a playoff game before. Then in my senior year we won one. Softball in California is so hard. It's like playing travel teams. It's like a religion out there.
Q - How did your recruiting process go? Who recruited you other than LSU?
Jaquish - I didn't have a lot of options. Actually I know that sounds kinda crazy, but I was late in the recruiting process. Because at that time a lot of my teammates, friends, and travel ball friends were getting recruited in their freshman year, eighth grade and I was a junior before I made a decision. So I had North Carolina and South Carolina really pursuing me and LSU. That's when I went on those three visits and then committed to LSU, because they're the best..
Q - Why did you choose LSU? What stood out about the program?
Jaquish - So my oldest sister went to Notre Dame, so leaving the nest wasn't a big deal to us, going far away. But LSU kinda felt like a home. Everyone was really nice and the team felt like family, so I really liked that. It was a home away from home. Then the culture was really cool. I wanted to experience something different and y'all food is really good.
Q - How different is Louisiana from California?
Jaquish - Oh my gosh, It's so different, but I love it, I love it. It's your own little country. Louisiana country. I really thought everyone wore cowboy boots in Louisiana, I had no idea. I had never been. So I bought a pair of cowboy boots before I went to Louisiana, and I think I wore them twice. Then I was like, "Hey, people wear regular shoes out here. There not cowboy boots."
Q - Tell us about your freshman season in 2014?
Jaquish - So, it was actually my hardest season out of all of them. Because I felt like I was good enough to start on the field, but so did my coach so that's why you see during my freshman year I played short stop, played third, played first, played catcher, was DP most of the time. That was really my position was designated hitter.
It was just a hard transition for me to not have a home on the field, especially catching because I just wanted to have the ball every pitch.
But, our first game, I remember this like it was yesterday. We were playing Texas and coach sat me down the day before the game and she said, "I am not going to start you and you're not going to play." and I was just shocked. I was like, why did I work this hard? Why am I not good enough? Those were the questions I had. She said, "Hey, You just have to have some experience. I want to see who is going to lead our team and I don't think it's going to be a freshman." .. I looked at her and started crying obviously, but I looked at her and said, "I think you're wrong. I think I'm going to step in here and make an impact. I want to be your best hitter who has ever came through here. If you let me have that opportunity then I can show you that."
I was kinda just standing up to her, but in a respectful way, I think it kinda changed her whole coaching mentality now. Look at how many freshman are starting on a team now. I feel kinda proud of sucking up and trying to do that. Then she said, "Okay then, if you want to start, then you're going to have to be the number four hitter in the SEC as a freshman. Do you think you can do that?" I was like,... "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could do that, of course I could do that"..
So it was that day that I had a mentality switch. Everyday that conversation just drove me and drove me. I was obsessed with getting everything right. I was obsessed with getting my swing perfect.
Then we played an exhibition game against the USSSA Pride (a professional team) and Rachel Fico, the number one draft pick. Rachel Fico was like the greatest pitcher at the time, and she went to LSU. Well, she was throwing a no-hitter against us. Coach Beth said, "Fine, you can go hit against Rachel." I was like, "Great.." So my first time ever hitting in a Tigers uniform and I'm playing against this All-American from LSU, that's great... I got jammed and I hit it to the right side and ruined her no-hitter.
I think the confidence that I showed during that at bat got me another opportunity, and that's all I wanted, was another opportunity. I wanted to prove myself, that's how I work best.
When someone tells me, that I can't do something or you're not good enough to do this, or I think you need more of this. That drives me and fuels me to just become way better then I was. So I appreciate that from Coach Beth.
That year I was mostly designated hitter, so a lot of my stats were hitting stats, but it's like how hard it is to be the designated hitter, in the four hole as a freshman and then make it to an All-American Team.
Q - Your freshman season ended with being eliminated by Arizona in a Regional. Tell us about the 2015 team, (your Sophomore season) and how you and the team improved and would make it to Oklahoma City for the CWS....
Jaquish - Like I said, failure fuels me to the point to where it's just,.. A decision gets made in my head, and it's the craziest thing because once I decide something, it happens. I think that's how strong our mental game is.
So freshman year I watched the World Series on my couch. I felt, "We could totally beat these girls. We are so good. I don't know why we're not there." So I started a group message with the incoming freshman. So they were the high school seniors coming here to LSU and I asked, "Are y'all watching the World Series?" and they were, "Yea, we are watching, sorry about your season.".. I said, "No, don't be sorry. because we are going to go next year. I hope your working. I hope your looking at these girls. You're going to play against them next year."
So I just started feeding that to the group and I think it helped. Bailey Landry also stepped up as a leader. That duo that we had, kinda fueled the team that we had. We had a lot of leaders on the team, don't get me wrong. It wasn't just me and Bianka, it was everybody kinda leading in a different way. Connie brought the energy, our little second baseman, she was like, fire.
Then Carley Hoover came in that year and was just stone cold on the mound. It was crazy. She was just a straight up competitor. She would race you to the front of the food line. She would try to beat you in everything and she would make sure you knew it.
So everyone lead in a different way and that's what got us that run and every year after that we went to the World Series because it was just a new standard, it was... "LSU goes to the World Series"...
Q - I see that in 2015, you ladies defeated Arizona in the Super Regional to advance to Oklahoma City. That must have felt great gaining a little revenge after being eliminated by them the season before?
Jaquish - It was great, It was great.. I was like wow, I mean, every match up I ever wanted, revenge, or just every competition I ever wanted, I played. I'm thankful for that. When I stepped in my freshman year, I said, "I want to play ULL! I wanna play ULL!" because they knocked LSU out the year before in 2013. So I wanted to play them and show them we were better. My senior year, I finally got that, and it was not easy at all. They brought it.
Q - Tell us what it's like to play in the Women's College World Series?
Jaquish - I think, It's like a dream game. You kinda talk about it while you train. When you're ten years old, like with my dad. My dad would be pitching to me and he would say, "Okay, runner on second, you're down by one, it's the World Series, there is two outs."
So it's kinda crazy how you get to play in the game that you dreamed of since you were a little girl. That's the coolest thing about it, and seeing other little girls ask you for your autograph, and you're like, "Wow, one of these kids could actually show up here one day."
It's just full circle. You just enjoy the moment. I think that's what we missed in 2015, because we were ranked #1. We had a lot of pressure on us to do something big, or to do something good, or to win it all. We had such high expectations for ourselves, instead of just enjoying the moment, and just playing the games and see how it all unfolds.
Because anyone in the World Series, those eight teams, could win it. You have to play the perfect game. You have to be hot. You have to have timely hits. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side. I think we kinda tried to control everything, and we defeated ourselves that year.
Q - So for your junior year in 2016, a lot of players return to make another strong run. Tell us a little about year three.
Jaquish - That was again, we had set a standard for ourselves, and said, Nothing less then the College World Series.
Junior year, we had a lot of the same girls coming back. We had a lot of returners on the team. It was just getting the freshman on board, and they had a standard when they stepped on the field to practice. A focus about them, that there was an expectation. It's crazy because its just tangible.
Like when a lot of returners have the same mentality of,... I expect the freshman to do this. I expect the returners to do this. I expect my senors to do this,.... and it all falls in line.
Like that chain of command happens, and obviously that's set by our head coach. She had a lot of great mental coaches come in and teach us about mentally preparing for something.
She set up a culture for us, that is still ingrained in us. It's still ingrained in the girls who are there. It became more like a standard, a culture that she created, that got us there. It was pretty awesome to see that, and we had,.. I think me, Bailey Landry, and that 2013-2014 class was Beth Torina's first recruiting class. She got to recruit us. Before that, it was Yvette Girouard and all her recruits.
In our junior year, Boom!, she came out with "TIGERS". ... And the meaning of TIGERS is,,,... T - trust, I - integrity, G - grit, E - energy, R - relentlessness, S - selflessness.... and if you have "TIGERS", if you display those traits, we're going to go far. In life, we're going to go far, in softball, in whatever you want to do.
She really helped us kinda grip onto what we were trying to hold onto. She would say, "This is what you call culture." Like what you just decided, LSU is going to the World Series. That's a culture that we are going to hold onto and we're going to make something out of it.
All the girls had a saying on what it should be. That's one of the things I'm proudest of is leaving that legacy and creating that culture with coach. I think that's something that's very special.
Q - Please continue on about your senior year.....
Jaquish - I think that was the season that I did the most growing as a person. Because, I realize, that... It's like that senior moment that you have. This is going to end, and I'm not going to be here next year.
It's kinda your final hurrah.. But, knowing that LSU softball is way bigger then you as a person and how that the legacy is going to continue even after you are gone, and they are still going to be playing, and there will still be girls in purple and gold, and what do you want to leave.
So I think that I was enjoying the moment more then trying to win a championship. I realize that being in that jersey is what makes me happy, even if we don't win it.
That sounds crazy. You think that you would want it more. That you should want the championship more. Actually, no. I just want to practice more with those girls. I just want to be with those girls more, and I just wanted to be a Tiger for as long as I could.
It's not like it struck a fear into the teammates that I had either. They understood, ..."hey someday I'll get there mentally. I don't know where you're at really. But I'm going to be a senior here someday and be there with you mentally through that."
I don't know, When you look at a senior, you can tell that they have been through it. Through the ringer, the shuttles, and all that. Through the stress and the big moments, and that they aren't afraid of it anymore. I don't think I was afraid of it anymore. I was just afraid of not being a Tiger.
Q - How did you feel after your last college game in Oklahoma City, after falling short of another National Championship goal?
Jaquish - That year we finished the worse that we ever finished. Our first year we made it to the semi-finals. Our second year we made it to the semi-finals. So we finished in third place back to back seasons. The last season, I'm not sure what we finished. I don't remember. But I know it wasn't close to third.
It was the worse year that it could have happened. But, after the last game, I believe we lost to Oregon. We went into the locker room, and the coaches were outside of the locker room kinda just talking.
I said, "Hey, I want to say something to y'all." .. and usually I would have said, "Hey, look, we should have done this better. This is why we lost." You know, give them the losing speech, like what we could do to get better, and this, that, and the other. But I just told them, "Thank You. I want to thank everyone of you for allowing me to step my cleats in this dirt again and to end my career here."... Then the water works happened. It's so crazy that it's over. But I told them, "A lot of you are coming back next year and I'll be watching and waiting, so go make me proud." ... That's all I said.
Q - How did your professional career begin? How were you notified about who drafted you in the NPF?
Jaquish - They actually drafted us before the World Series. So it was, .. yea, yea, that's great, but I'm trying to win a championship, playing with my team for the last time. We didn't get to have that moment when where it's like, "Wow, I'm a professional athlete." That's one of the top, elite things that you can be as a person or as a human. But yea, they drafted me and Bailey.
We had a watch party out at Tiger Park, so that was really special. Everyone was really excited. But Bailey and I were trying to stay focused on what we really wanted to do as seniors and what legacy we wanted to leave.
Q - The Chicago Bandits drafted you?
Jaquish - Yes, they did. It was the craziest thing I ever did.
Ten days after the World Series. Ten days after I realized I wasn't a Tiger anymore, I had to take a plane flight and go play in a game that same day. Fly on a plane, land, and go play a game. On a different team, wearing a different jersey.
It was just such a shock to me. I don't think I said one word. It was just so weird. I don't know how I was feeling about it. I was tired, I just got off of a plane.
But the other girls were like, "This is how it is." The professional girls would say, "You better suck it up and start playing. We don't care about your college game and you have to help us win this, and you have to be a part of this team now."
It took me awhile, but I ended up loving it there, and loving Chicago. The good thing was that I was still playing softball, because that was my true love. It's my true love to play softball. So I was excited that I could still do that.
I also made the All-League team. I played catcher a lot in the League and the girls were really awesome and they just love to play. I mean they don't play for the money obviously. So they play for the pride and the passion. I really respected that and could get behind them on that.
Q - How excited were you when you found out that the championship series of the NPF was going to be played at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge?
Jaquish - I was so shocked about it. I think they announced it a mid way through the season that LSU won the bid on the Pro Championship Series. I thought, wow. This is like a Cinderella story. I can't believe I get to play a game and sink my cleats in that dirt again. Being in a different jersey, but still playing on my favorite field, in my favorite park. Yea, that was something special for sure.
Q - After your rookie season in Chicago, you ended up playing for a different team in your second year?
Jaquish - Yes. They traded me for a draft pick and some money.
So I got traded to the Pride and they were the number one team in the League, so I was super excited about that.
It was a great opportunity. It was a little more money for me. I was really excited. I really didn't care. I was just excited to play some softball.
They are located in Viera, Florida. So I went from city life to beach life, but I wasn't mad about it because I love the beach. Our apartments were out on the beach, so I would go outside and go take a run on the beach. I felt,... Oh, this is great. I'm a pro athlete, ... It was fun. It was a lot of fun.
We also went on to win the League Championship that year. That year I actually split time between the Pride and the USA Olympic Team.
Q - So with the USA team you won two gold metals? One in the World Championship and one in the Pan-Am Games? Tell us what that was like to win gold metals...
Jaquish - That felt similar to college ball. The pride that you take in the colors that you are wearing. The pride that you take in representing something bigger then yourself. That felt a lot like college ball. It gave me a hope, that maybe professional softball could be like this someday. Maybe people can get behind us like they did for the USA team.
So, yea. It definitely felt natural to me. I felt, yea this is how it's suppose to be. I learned a lot on that team. I learned a lot about having pride in your country and being viewed as the best team in the world. How that mean't about your work ethic and playing together as a team. So that was crazy too. It was a crazy ride.
Actually, I was on a national team in 2013. It was team Puerto Rico. I don't think a lot of people know that. The captain of their team asked me to play summer ball with them. At the time, the Olympics weren't even in question.
I said yes. I'll play for team Puerto Rico. Go travel the world and play softball. That sounded like fun. I got the okay from Coach Beth to do it. So I played for them for three years, 2013, 14, & 15. In 2016 and 2017, I didn't play for them.
Then I got contacted by team USA. So I began to think, man should I go to this tryout? I had a hard time waking up every morning saying, "Do I want to represent team Puerto Rico, or do I want to represent my country?
Both teams were good enough to make it to the Olympics and qualify. I felt comfortable being with team Puerto Rico. I had become their team captain, and was playing in every game. I don't want to be comfortable, ever.
I always want to be challenged. I always want to be pushed to my limits.
I may not even make team USA. I might go to that try out and burn my bridge with Puerto Rico, and not even make the team. But I'm willing to do that, because I want to be the best in the world. If I'm not willing to risk it and to get better and put myself in a challenging environment everyday, then your not willing to be the best in the world.
I had lawyers get involved. They had to release me from the team. It was a crazy process, but eventually they ended up releasing me from team Puerto Rico and allowed me to play for team USA and then qualify for the Olympics.
You can bet every time we played Puerto Rico they plucked me a few times. We beat them every time we played them. I actually hit a home run against them in the World Championships to win the game, and then they didn't pitch to me after that. It was fun.
Q - Who are you currently playing with? The California Commotion?
Jaquish - Yes. We were suppose to report April 17th, but they ended up cancelling the pre-spring dates because of the virus. So we are on a month to month bases on knowing if we are going to play or not. It's kinda sad but it's a softball game vs. world health and this world epidemic, so we understand completely.
I also want to inform you about this other League that is brand new, that no one knows about. I did sign with them as well. So right after the NPF League, there is this thing called Athletes Unlimited. I think it's 52 girls and they are their own coaches and they are their own draft people. You get points by winning games. You get points by winning innings. You get points by your staff and whoever has the most points after the week gets to be a captain and draft their own team. So every week there will be a new team and a new set of captains drafting.
We have two "billion dollar" investors coming in to invest in this League, making it a six week League in Chicago. So it's brand new. No one really knows about it. But I would like people to start becoming informed about that. There website is: www.auprosports.com ...
Q - When your finish playing pro softball, what are your career plans?
Jaquish - I definitely want to coach. I love coaching actually. It's one of my other favorite things to do. To coach the game and to learn from the younger generation.
There are so many new things coming out now with Exit Speed, Launching and all those things that weren't around when I was starting to play. Just learning the game and teaching the game is one of my passions.
I do have a coaching opportunity, but I'm not going to disclose that yet until I sign the contract. But definitely Division I softball coaching is one of my favorite things.
I was a volunteer coach at LSU after my senior year. It was a hands on position. Since I could play any position, Coach Beth would tell me, whoever needs whatever, you better be there. I was like, "Yes Coach."
Q - Can you tell us a little bit about Coach Beth Torina?
Jaquish - Yea, I would love too. She gets it. She understands that she's not just coaching softball games anymore.
I feel like she has matured as a coach with just teaching the game, and she teaches us how to be women. I think that is very special. She has your best interest and I think that she will find what your weakest point is at and she will move your threshold, which is what a great coach does.
So if my normal is batting 300 with a couple of RBIs, she'll always try to push your normal and get you to your breaking point so you can get better. I just appreciate her and she has such great dialog with her players.
She has an open door policy. She will let you call her a 12 midnight if we needed too. We always kept her three little girls into consideration when we called her though. She was always there.
I view her now as a family member then a coach. She is very special to me and my family. I'm forever grateful for her and will always learn from her.
Q - Anything you would like to tell the LSU fans?
Jaquish - LSU fans, man... They are the best. They are the best.. I know everyone says that about their fans at their school but I really think LSU fans are most invested.
They will tell you when you're doing something wrong, but they will defend you against anyone else who is saying something bad about you.
So I feel like that's a type of family thing that you don't get anywhere else. It's out of love to be the best and to always honor LSU and to always keep Louisiana State above everything else.
I appreciate them. I love them so much. That's another reason why I chose LSU is because there is actual fans there. People actually come to your games. People actually care. People are invested.
They bring their daughters to the games and they say, "We are your biggest fan." There is just something there in that connection that you have with the fan base that you don't get anywhere else. I don't care what anyone else says. But, yes, they are the best. They are my favorite and just keep on being them.