On Sunday, the NCAA released the schedule for the Women’s College World Series. The eight teams traveling to Oklahoma City to vie for the national title are top-seeded Oklahoma, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Washington, No. 5 Florida, No. 6 Arizona, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 8 Alabama and No. 13 Oklahoma State.
The three Pac-12 teams are on the same side of the bracket, and the Wildcats will open against the Huskies in Game 1 at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Here are some points shortstop Jessie Harper touched on Monday as the Wildcats prepare for their first WCWS since 2010:
Dream come true
Like many others on the team, Harper always dreamed of going to the WCWS. Growing up, she watched many of the postseason games on TV.
The moment she set foot on campus her freshman year, she says she knew there was a chance that coach Mike Candrea could take the Wildcats back to Oklahoma City. The day before her 21st birthday, the Wildcats completed the Super Regional sweep against Ole Miss, punching their ticket to the WCWS on Saturday.
Harper’s dream is finally coming true. Well, part of it.
“Like I said, dream come true, but this isn’t the final dream,” Harper said. “The final dream is to be in the final game and winning, hoisting the trophy.”
Friends or foes?
When it comes down to it, Harper loves the Pac-12 and wants as many conference teams to make it as far as possible. But because of the seedings, UCLA, Washington and Arizona all find themselves on the same side of the bracket — so only one Pac-12 team can play in the championship series.
“I don’t like that one of us has to kick out each other for Pac-12 reasons,” Harper said. “I want the Pac-12 to remain strong, but we’re going to come out guns flying. I want to win.”
Even though the Pac-12 boasts the most competitors in the WCWS, it’s the Southeastern Conference that gets most of the regular-season and postseason games on ESPN. The SEC and Big 12 conferences are represented in Oklahoma by two schools each, and the Big 10 earned one spot.
Harper would like her conference to get more national recognition “just to inspire the younger generations and get softball put on the map more globally.”
When Arizona last saw Washington, the Wildcats hosted the Huskies in what would end up being their only series loss in Pac-12 play. Since then, Arizona has won seven of eight games, including a 5-0 mark in the postseason.
Unlike the majority of the other WCWS opponents, the Huskies are fresh on Arizona’s mind. The regular-season Washington series took place less than four weeks ago. The only other team Arizona has played in the last month is UCLA, in the regular-season finale.
“I’m excited,” Harper said. “We hit a little rough spell with them here at Rita (Hillenbrand Stadium), but I’m excited. If that doesn’t put a fire in your belly, see what does.”
Arizona is the first WCWS team to have played all seven other participants since the UA did so in 2000.
The Wildcats faced Oklahoma, Florida, Minnesota, Alabama and Oklahoma State within the first four weekends of the schedule — before conference play.
Harper thinks the familiarity with any opponent they could see in Oklahoma City is cool, but they’re going to try to stay away from the name game or getting ahead of themselves.
“I know that everyone on our team is collectively ready for the first game — we can’t look too far ahead,” she said. “Like I’ve said before, we’ve just got to play our Arizona game, and that’s what we’ll do.”
'This is everybody’s dream as a kid'
Arizona punched its ticket to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City for the first time since 2010 after taking down Ole Miss in the Super Regional over the weekend.
UA head coach Mike Candrea is set to coach in his 22nd Women's College World Series, but looks to win his first national championship since 2007, a team led by current Arizona pitching coach Taryne Mowatt.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, Arizona has faced the other seven teams this season: Washington, UCLA, Oklahoma, Florida, Oklahoma State, Minnesota and Alabama. Arizona went 4-7 against the aforementioned teams this season and were swept by Washington at home.
The No. 6 Wildcats will face third-ranked Washington Thursday at 9 a.m. on ESPN. Candrea, pitcher Taylor McQuillin, outfielder Carli Campbell, shortstop Jessie Harper and catcher Dejah Mulipola spoke to the Star before the team's last practice at Rita Hillenbrand Stadium, here's what they had to say.
Mike Candrea on the familiarity with the entire field at the Women’s College World Series: pic.twitter.com/1a7GOqcgnB— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) May 27, 2019
Playing on the big stage is a dream come true
Learning from one of the best to pitch at Arizona
Taylor McQuillin on having Taryne Mowatt as her pitching coach:“Her coming here has been one of the greatest things for Arizona softball. ... I’ve learned so much from her.” Mowatt threw 1,035 pitches in 7 days and led Arizona to the national title in 2007. pic.twitter.com/ZsdV2l44UM— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) May 27, 2019
Getting over 'the curse'
Honoring the past
Jessie Harper on Arizona’s rich history and playing shortstop: pic.twitter.com/PJLQPUVSwb— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) May 27, 2019
Mindset after getting swept by Washington
Arizona pitcher Taylor McQuillin on how the Wildcats bounced back after getting swept by Washington: pic.twitter.com/ETnAXEglL5— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) May 27, 2019
Candrea's phone won't stop buzzing
Sometimes talent doesn't take teams to the WCWS
Mike Candrea on Arizona molding together at the right time: #WCWS “The best 8 teams will be at the College World Series, it’s not always the best talent, and this team has really bought in to that.” pic.twitter.com/bn0JpU0cNO— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) May 27, 2019