The University of Washington softball team’s recent run to the Women’s College World Series finals garnered plenty of attention one county north of Montlake.
While the Huskies ultimately lost to Florida State in the best-of-three championship series, their 2018 run invoked both memories of nine years ago and visions of future WCWS glory.
For Monroe High School softball coach Ashley Tuiasosopo, it was the former. She played on UW’s 2009 WCWS championship team.
“If there are any similarities it’s just that joy that all those kids play with,” Tuiasosopo said. “It reminds me of all the joy we had in playing for one another and kind of trying to go after something that’s bigger than yourself.”
The 2009 Huskies entered the WCWS as the No. 3 seed and swept top-seeded Florida in the two straight games in the finals to claim the first softball championship in school history.
Watching that team win the NCAA title resonated with 2018-19 UW recruits Sami Reynolds of Snohomish and McKenzie Schulz of Monroe.
Both Reynolds and Schulz were nine years old during that title run, when the Huskies were led by ace pitcher Danielle Lawrie, who was named the Most Outstanding Player.
“I remember watching Danielle Lawrie and how good she is and it was just so fun to watch the local team,” said Reynolds, an outfielder for this year’s Panthers team that finished second at the Class 3A state tournament following an epic 13-inning loss to Bonney Lake in the finals. “At the time, I guess I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was — I was so young — but I knew that it was something to be so proud of to have a local team like that competing and winning.”
Lawrie was also an inspiration for Schulz, who hopes to follow Lawrie’s success in the pitching circle.
“Watching her being on TV and seeing her play at Husky Stadium was the coolest thing because I wanted to be her someday,” said Schulz, who pitched for Tuiasosopo and the Class 4A state runner-up Bearcats. “It was really cool to have that image growing up, and watching somebody do so many amazing things in a Husky uniform made me want to be in that same position as she is.”
Both Reynolds and Schulz went to camps at UW as they progressed from youth leagues to travel and high school softball. Their experience and familiarity with the program made it easy when the Huskies came calling on the recruiting trail.
“It’s been a dream since I was 9 years old and I’m ecstatic to get to be a part of something so great next year,” Schulz said. “I did look at other schools, but nothing compared to Washington. I just felt at home and I knew that I wanted to be there for the longest time, so it was the easiest decision I’ve ever made.”
The academics were another big selling point for Reynolds, who aspires to attend medical school after she concludes her undergrad days.
“I knew it was going to be the right choice for me academically based on what I want to do with my future,” she said. “I always knew it was something I wanted to do, and something I could do if I worked hard enough and did my best.”
This year’s Husky team entered the WCWS as the fifth seed and won three straight — including a victory over top-seeded and regional rival Oregon — to reach the championship series against sixth-seeded Florida State.
Reynolds and Schulz said they hope the success of this year’s UW team is a harbinger of what awaits them in their college careers.
“It’s absolutely the most exhilarating thing I could ever think of, knowing that I’m going to be playing at that level next year,” Reynolds said. “I think the most important thing is watching the girls, and their dynamic is so good, and it’s so pitch-by-pitch oriented.”
This year’s UW roster featured senior Trysten Melhart, a former Snohomish outfielder whom Reynolds replaced in center field after Melhart graduated. Other local players included freshman catcher Emma Helm from Meadowdale and freshman utility player Morgan Allen from Monroe.
“We have a lot of great athletes from our area and being able to make a name for Snohomish County and be able to represent is really cool, especially when they’re going to the World Series and proving that they’re one of the best teams in the country,” Schulz said. “It really shows that Washington state has got some good athletes and we’re not to be looked past.”
Reynolds and Schulz will be the latest in the line of local talent to take their talents to Montlake.
“For us Washington kids, when we get an opportunity to put on that Washington jersey there is a lot of pride,” said Tuiasosopo, who starred at Woodinville High before attending UW. “You go from playing for your small town or your big city to representing your state and there is a lot of pride in that. I think it starts with Coach (Heather) Tarr being a local kid and getting to coach at her alma mater.”
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