The Real Season Starts Now: UW Gets New Life In Postseason
May 11, 2012
SEATTLE - These Huskies still believe. They still want it. And they can still have it.
Washington's four seniors know they can leave this program the way they started, with a national championship.
Coach Heather Tarr's No. 18/18 Huskies (36-17) had the final week off in the regular season and have used it to rest and practice. They now wait to learn Sunday where and when their first game will be in the NCAA Tournament.
The UW started with a 29-1 record in the preseason, winning two preseason tournaments, getting as high as No. 3 in both national polls, and beating top-ranked teams such as Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, Notre Dame and Nebraska (twice).
The first-ever Pac-12 series for UW was against the newcomer Utah. The Huskies fought-off a tough Utes team that also had a great pre-season winning over 20 games, sweeping the series and improving to 32-1. In the pre-season the Huskies were ranked No. 16 but as Tarr said, "We surprised the world going 32-1 before we ran into No. 1 Cal."
The Huskies and Golden Bears played three tough games in Berkeley. Cal won the first game by just one run and the second and third games by two runs each.
After returning home to play Arizona, the Huskies played at Oregon, versus UCLA, at Oregon State and versus Arizona State before they ended the regular season at Stanford. Every team in the Pac-12 is currently ranked except Utah. And the Utes were receiving votes entering the Pac-12 season.
Although a 7-16 mark in Pac-12 play wasn't what UW hoped for, the team remains driven. The tested players know there is no perfect team in softball, that and no Division I team has ever gone undefeated in the sport.
"We still believe," Tarr said. "Where there are outs left, there is still a game to be played."
Tarr is among most softball coaches that believe there are three "seasons" within a season; pre-season, conference and post-season.
"What other conference has teams in it as 'storied' and as traditionally strong as ours?," Tarr asked. "No other conference has the number one and two ranked teams this year. Cal and ASU (which have given UW six of its 17 defeats) are two of the best teams out there right now. Both programs have won national championships."
In fact, only five schools outside of the Pac-12 have ever won a national championship. The last six championships have come out of UW's conference. Since the inaugural NCAA Tournament season in 1982, the Pac-12 has sent a team to the final series 28 out of 30 years, with a combined 24 titles.
"We play every day against coaches and programs that have won multiple national championships. It's tough, but we wouldn't want it any other way," Tarr added. "We are young and at times we've been humbled in the Pac-12. Pitching has been a little unpredictable with our freshman and two sophomores. We have had chances to win nearly every Pac-12 game, losing by a margin of one or two runs. It's a very fine line in our conference. Always has been. Always will be."
UW knows it is in the postseason next week, but doesn't know where it will play or whom. The NCAA Selection Show will air Sunday at 7 p.m. PT on ESPNU. The top 16 teams based on RPI, rankings, strength of schedule and other pertinent stats will host. UW hosted the last two seasons and still has a chance to host this year.
The Huskies are currently No. 17 in the RPI and one of the few teams not playing this weekend so it is possible they could move back into the top 16. But 2009 proved it doesn't matter where the Huskies play in the postseason.
The school's run to its first national championship in the sport didn't start in Seattle. UW went to UMASS, Georgia Tech and then to the Women's College World Series Oklahoma City without returning to Seattle in between - yet still brought home the title.
"We are battle-tested having played in this conference all season against the best teams in the country," Tarr said. "Our strength of schedule ranks in the top eight in the country. We have played and or beaten almost every team ranked above us, which gives us familiarity against the best of the best."