The Arizona softball team was relaxed at the start of the NCAA Softball Selection Show on Sunday night as the commentators announced the top eight seeds and hosts of Regional and Super Regional rounds.
Then the UA athletes, coaches and family members got quiet inside of the Lapan Family Center.
The group waited anxiously to see what seed UA would get, but patience was wearing thin by the time the No. 12 and No. 13 seeds were announced.
Finally, Arizona was named the No. 14 seed and host of the Tucson Regional, and the group erupted into cheers.
We’re going dancing for the NCAA-record 32nd straight season! pic.twitter.com/lQSHKhtbyJ— Arizona Softball (@ArizonaSoftball) May 14, 2018
The Wildcats will play St. Francis (Pa.) at 8:30 p.m. Friday on the opening day of the Regional. Mississippi State and North Dakota State will also make their way to Hillenbrand, and will meet at 6 p.m. Friday.
UA coach Mike Candrea said he believed a shocking loss to Stanford on Saturday would put the team in a vulnerable spot, but he's happy to host.
"At this stage of the game, we're playing," Candrea said. "I like where we're at right now."
This is the 32nd consecutive year the Wildcats qualified for the postseason. Last year, Arizona entered the postseason as the No. 2 seed, but fell short of making a trip to the Women's College World Series after losing a heartbreaking series to Baylor in the Super Regionals.
Arizona finished the regular season this year with a 40-14 overall record (13-11 Pac-12 play). It's a far cry from last year's top team, but the season feels new now.
"Everyone starts 0-0. It's a clean slate," ace pitcher Taylor McQuillin said. "It's time to play the best softball you've ever seen for the entire year."
McQuillin also said the team is ready to get back into V Formation.
During a mid-week practice leading up to the Arizona State series, Candrea introduced the team to the background story of why geese fly in a V Formation. Candrea thought the flight pattern related to the team sport his team is playing.
The Wildcats need leaders, but they need a rotation of leaders.
"The way geese communicate is they honk. So, lately they've been talking about honking loudly in the games and helping out one another," Candrea said. "That will kind of be a little bit of our theme going into the postseason."
The Tucson Regional will also serve as the last games played at Hillenbrand as it's known today. After the season, construction will begin on a new stadium.
"I think that being able to start at home is one of the best things for us," McQuillin said. "Starting out strong and starting our regional, staying at home at Hillenbrand with our supporters."
If the Wildcats win the Tucson Regional, they will move on to play the winner of the Los Angeles Regional, headed by No. 3 seed UCLA.
Combined, Arizona and UCLA have 19 WCWS titles, and they've battled in the finals seven times. This would be the first postseason meeting between both schools since 2010.
Arizona leads the postseason series 8-6.
"For me, you can look at all the seedings and look at all the selections, but the road to Oklahoma City, and the road to get there, is going to be tough no matter where you're at," Candrea said.
"So, you have to beat everyone to be a national champion. This group right now, needs to not look too far ahead. They need to take care of this weekend at Hillenbrand."
This article is written by Norma Gonzalez from The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.