Normally, a trip to the Women’s College World Series would be the highlight of any softball player’s year.
But it hasn’t been just any year for Dejah Mulipola.
Mulipola made the Team USA roster in January and will join her new teammates after her stay in Oklahoma City with the Wildcats. In 59 games this season, all starts for Mulipola, the junior catcher is hitting .316 with 22 home runs and 53 RBIs. Earlier in May, Mulipola was named first-team All-Pac-12.
The Star caught up with Mulipola as the Wildcats prepared for the World Series, where they’ll take on Washington on Thursday morning. Here’s what the 21-year-old said:
It’s been a quite a year for you, starting in January with making Team USA and now being able to “break the curse,” as you say, and make it to the Women’s College World Series. How would you describe the year that you’ve had?
A: “I think it’s definitely been a roller coaster. I kind of came into the year trying to say I wanted to be more of a leader, more vocal as coach always wanted me to be the past two years. I kind of tried to step out of my comfort zone and it’s paid off. It’s definitely been a roller coaster, my junior year.”
But this year isn’t even halfway over. What else is in store for you?
A: “Honestly, just seeing where my teammates can help me go, reach my potential. I’m excited to see what the rest of this year has, for the summer and for the World Series.”
Last August, the women’s national team won a second consecutive world championship and it earned them a spot in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. How much would it mean to you to be part of that team?
A: “It just gave me butterflies. It would mean everything. I think that’s every little softball girl’s dream is first, just to make it to college, which I’ve done, and now to make it to the Olympics. I mean, just being on the Peru team, the PanAm team right now is just a blessing, so to make (the Olympic) team would be amazing.”
What does being part of Team USA entail and how does it help you out here in Arizona?
A: “It just entails being more mature and it’s definitely the peak of the mountain in softball, especially because my coach (Mike Candrea) was the USA coach a couple years ago. So to be able to represent them and knowing he was a coach as well is just an honor.
“I definitely think it helps me be more mature and be more competitive because those women have a different way of thinking about softball because they have more experience than me. So I just try to take what they have to offer me and just take it and bring it here and share it with my teammates so they can get a little bit of it as well.”
Is there any pressure being the youngest player on the national team?
A: “I think it’s cool because you can learn from people like Kelly Kretschman, Monica Abbott, and it’s just your sponge; you just soak it in. It’s definitely eye-opening — I’m kind of a deer in headlights sometimes. I don’t know what I’m doing, but they do. But it’s amazing to know that I’m on the team with them.”
Even though you’re the youngest player, there’s another Class of 2020 player?
A: “Rachel Garcia” of UCLA.
So how do you feel now playing alongside her?
A: “I think it’s funny because when I’m playing her in the Pac-12 I’m like, ‘Oh, I want to beat you so bad.’ And then being on her team, it’s like, ‘I love that you’re on my team because I know how bad-freaking-a-s-s you are.’”
Now, you’re going to have to put Team USA on the back burner and focus on the World Series. What are you looking forward to there?
A: “I’m looking forward to see what this team has to bring. We made it there, so I think we are a whole new team right now. And the teams that we faced — since we faced (every team in the WCWS) already — they’re not going to know what’s coming because we are very different coming into the World Series.”
Win or lose, what’s something that you want to take away from this experience and use for next year?
A: “I just want to know where we can continue to learn for next year because we know what it takes to get there now. So just seeing how the World Series is different compared to conference and preseason and just stuff like that. Just taking everything and constantly learning and bringing it to the next year.”