Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, May 14, 2001


The UH Wahine softball team learned yesterday at
the Eastside Bar & Grill that it was invited to an
NCAA regional in Tucson, Ariz. Play
begins Thursday.

UH softball
team headed
to regional

Wahine return to site of
'98 postseason loss -- Tucson, Ariz.
-- with revenge in mind

By Dave Reardon

After a weekend when its conference title hopes were washed away in Tulsa, Okla., the University of Hawaii softball team won a measure of respect -- along with an NCAA Tournament bid -- yesterday.

The Wahine learned their season will continue while watching the NCAA Tournament Selection Show at the Eastside Bar & Grill near campus. UH leaves tomorrow for Tucson, Ariz., as the No. 3 seed in the regional, hosted by No. 1 Arizona.

Hawaii, which completed its regular season May 5, finished second in the Western Athletic Conference by default. Four games between Fresno State and host Tulsa were rained out Friday and Saturday.

The Bulldogs -- despite finishing a game behind the Wahine in the win-loss column -- won the WAC by percentage points.

Along with the title, FSU got an automatic NCAA bid.

That left UH in suspense until yesterday's selection show, as it is never a given that a school in the middle of the Pacific Ocean will get an at-large bid, regardless of how deserving.

But Hawaii's 45-15 overall mark was not ignored by the selection committee, and the Wahine will return to the site of their 1998 regional appearance.

"It's a great place to play softball,'' said UH coach Bob Coolen. "It's a great ballpark."

It's Hawaii's third NCAA appearance in four years. But it's also much more.

It's a chance at redemption. In 1998, UH's four seniors were freshmen on the team that went 1-2 at Tucson.

The four hope to take what they learned there -- as well as at the 1999 Regional in Seattle, where they lost in the final -- and parlay it into the program's first College World Series appearance.

"This is the big time, the regionals," senior center fielder Kristin Anderson said. "I don't know if I should say we're better (than in 1998), but we're ready."

Southwest Texas State (52-10) is Hawaii's first opponent (11:30 a.m. Thursday, Hawaii time). The 19th-ranked Bobcats are the Southland Conference champions and put together an 18-game winning streak during the season.

Hawaii finished the season just outside the Top 25. The Wahine received 16 points for 27th place in the poll.

This will be the first meeting between the Wahine and Bobcats.

"We're good enough, we know we can play with the top teams," senior pitcher Desiree Duran said.

The Wahine aren't looking past the first game. But they would love a shot at Arizona (57-4), which UH has never beaten in eight tries.

The Wahine lost to the Wildcats, 1-0, last year in a game that turned UH's season for the worse. Hawaii was supposed to play Arizona on a Florida road trip early this season, but the game was rained out.

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