Over the course of her coaching and playing career, Crowley native Alyson Habetz has enjoyed a front-row seat to one of the NCAA’s burgeoning championship events.
Habetz, a first baseman on Louisiana-Lafayette’s first World Series team in 1993, returns to Oklahoma City for the 11th time with the University of Alabama, where she’s served as an assistant coach.
“It’s a great atmosphere to be a part of, and Oklahoma City really supports this event,” Habetz said. “I never take it for granted. It’s a blessing and very special. It’s not easy to get here. You want to soak it up every time you’re here.”
That’s been the prevailing message from Habetz, an assistant to Patrick Murphy for 18 seasons, where No. 6 Alabama (51-12) faces No. 3 Oklahoma (51-4) Thursday at 6 p.m. in first-round action at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
It represents the fifth trip in six years and third straight for the Crimson Tide, which won the school’s first national championship in 2012.
“It’s somewhat of a different feeling,” Habetz said. “This is the first team that doesn’t have any players from that (national title) team. We have four seniors that have been great leaders and great teammates. You just want that for them.”
Habetz was a two-sport athlete at Louisiana-Lafayette, playing guard in basketball and earning All-America honors in softball. She graduated in 1995 and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
While the lure of home is ever-present for Habetz, who will have five family members on hand in Oklahoma City, it’s clear she’s found a second family at Alabama and a second home in Tuscaloosa.
“I love my job, I love where I am,” she said. “I’m the youngest of eight and come from an amazing family, so I always miss my family. Louisiana will always be home to me.
“Alabama gives you everything you need to have success and it’s truly a family environment,” she said. “It’s been fun with Patrick in being able to build something.”
Murphy has constructed Alabama’s program from the ground up, with Habetz being a part of the Tide’s rise to prominence.
Alabama won five Southeastern Conference championships and became the first school from the league to win a national title.
Habetz, who was elevated to associate head coach in 2007, has been an invaluable recruiter, worked with the team’s offense and outfielders.
“You’re just a part of something special,” she said. “It’s hard to leave that. You’re part of something that’s been built from the ground up. It’s been fun to watch that process.”
Habetz said this year’s trip to the WCWS is a tribute to team’s ability to overcome adversity in both the fall and regular season.
The first setback occurred when the father of senior right fielder Andrea Hawkins, former NFL player Andy Hawkins, passed away in the fall.
“That’s first time in the history of program we’ve lost an immediate family member,” Habetz said. “We were all close to him. A couple of other freshmen lost friends and an aunt. It was a heavy fall.”
Key injuries to All-America pitcher Alexis Osorio and second baseman Demi Turner provided opportunities for Sydney Littlejohn and Chandler Dare to fill immediate voids.
Littlejohn, a second team All-SEC selection, held down the role of staff ace until Osorio fully recovered from an ankle injury; a development that’s given Alabama a stout 1-2 punch.
Turner, who dislocated her elbow in a series at LSU, has also returned to a designated player’s role — all of which helped galvanize the Tide during their 5-0 sweep through the postseason and back to the WCWS.
“For our players, who work so hard, this is what they play for,” Habetz said. “This is what they dream about. To see the look on their face, it never gets old. It’s the best there is to offer in college softball.”