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.”

Washington rematch

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.”

Familiar faces

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.”

Contact reporter Norma Gonzalez at 520-262-3265 or ngonzalez@tucson.com.

Sports reporter

Norma started at the Star in 2017. She's a sports reporter covering all types of beats. She graduated from the University of Texas–Pan American in 2014 and recently graduated from the Associated Press Sports Editors Diversity Fellowship program.