The Oklahoma Sooners have eliminated the Arizona Wildcats from the NCAA tournament the last two years. And last month, the Sooners inked Shelby Pendley, the star UA shortstop, weeks after she decided to transfer.
It's natural, then, for the No. 19 Wildcats (8-2) to put extra emphasis on today's game against the Sooners in Game 1 of the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, Calif.
Not to mention that, at 10-0, Oklahoma is ranked No. 1 by the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll.
"I am anxious," UA coach Mike Candrea said. "I think they're the best team in the country now, bar none.
"They've got all the ingredients of a very solid team. It will be a challenge and a great opportunity."
The coach said the super-regional elimination losses - the Sooners went 4-0 against the UA in the playoffs the last two years - are motivation.
"Having been knocked out by Oklahoma is enough in itself," he said. "The Pendley thing is over and done with."
Kelsey Rodriguez, one of the surprises of the UA's young season, puts it thusly:
"We prepare for teams the same way," she said. "We can't think about the name. It's seeing a faceless opponent and playing our game.
"It's exciting - but it's another game, another team."
The Pacific transfer is tied for the team lead with two homers and eight RBIs on the power-starved Wildcats.
She hit her first two home runs as a Wildcat in a 13-1 blowout against Utah State on Sunday.
"It felt very good," she said. "It was nice to make good contact. I'd been struggling, and it was be nice to contribute to the team and get us some runs on the board."
The Scottsdale native transferred to the UA to be closer to home after a family medical emergency. Her sister Courtney, a freshman, has started five times for the Wildcats.
Kelsey Rodriguez has started all 10 games, playing first base, catcher and, like her sister, right field.
"She's a very smart kid, very savvy," Candrea said.
"I like her. I think she plays with a lot of maturity and has been a big blessing for us."
Cathedral City Classic
At Palm Springs, Calif.
• Today: vs. Oklahoma, 4:30 p.m.; vs. Long Beach State, 7 p.m.
• Friday: vs. Ohio State, 7 p.m.; vs. Loyola Marymount, 9:30 p.m.
• Saturday: vs. LSU, 6 p.m.