MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Late season success is becoming a prevalent pattern for the University of Minnesota Gophers softball team, including three straight Big Ten Tournament titles and six consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
This season is a whole new ball game though, with a new coaching staff and new leaders on the diamond.
“We’re keeping it really present and the team that’s here now,” first year Gophers head coach Jamie Trachsel said. “We are trying to write our own story.”
“I think this season is different in the sense that we kind of weren’t expected [to be here],” Gophers junior Maddie Houlihan said. “We had a couple of rough weekends that kind of hurt us, but I think we’re playing our best ball right now which is what you want going into the postseason.”
The Gophers’ program has been good lately with 19 wins in their last 20 games, but early exits from the NCAA Tournament have been a common theme over the last few years.
No one on this Minnesota roster has advanced to a Super Regional. It is a fact that is a focus for the entire team this week, especially the seniors.
“That’s always the goal: to make Regionals, go to Super Regionals and then go to the World Series,” Gophers senior Danielle Parlich said. “It’s definitely always at the back of my mind and I hope this is the year we do it.”
Minnesota’s draw is anything but easy in a regional with teams like Washington, Texas and Boise State.
The Huskies won 44 games this season, the Longhorns finished third in the Big 12 Tournament and the Broncos won the Mountain West for the first time in program history this year.
The only thing matching the high degree of difficulty is the Gophers’ intense desire to break through to the Women’s College World Series after strong regular season showings over the last few years.
“The time is going to come, I think this program is deserving of it,” Houlihan said. “We work hard enough to compete for a national championship I believe, so I think if any year this would be the year.”
The Gophers begin their NCAA Tournament run in the Washington regional. Minnesota’s first game will be against Texas on Friday at 8:00 p.m.