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SEATTLE — The goal has been clear from the start of the season for the University of Washington softball team: win the Women’s College World Series after coming so close last year.
The Huskies publicly embrace that, probably because the goal never changes.
It’s unlike the attitude of many sports teams and coaches, who act as if even thinking past the next game will do irreparable harm.
After sweeping Kentucky in a super regional last weekend at Husky Softball Stadium to get back to the Women’s College World Series, the Huskies are close to reaching their goal. But for them, it’s also about the journey.
That journey has them in the first game of the WCWS against Pac-12 foe Arizona at 9 a.m. PDT Thursday in Oklahoma City.
“The mission is to win the last game at Oklahoma City; that’s our mission,” said UW coach Heather Tarr, who won a national title as the Huskies’ coach in 2009. “But why we exist isn’t because of that. We exist to try and be the best versions of ourselves and to be the best team that we can become and create relationships amongst each other that are life lasting.
“We try to be tough when we need to be tough, and typically, that has brought us to the College World Series.”
The Huskies are in the WCWS for the third straight year. Last year, they were the No. 5 seed and marched to the title series with three impressive wins: two over Oklahoma, the No. 4 seed playing about a half-hour from its home in Norman, and top-seeded Oregon.
But Florida State, the No. 6 seed, swept UW in two games in the championship series, 1-0 and 8-3.
Now the second-ranked Huskies are back, hoping to complete their mission.
“It’s not easy, even though these guys make it look easy,” Tarr said of reaching the WCWS. “We had nine newcomers this year. … It’s been an amazing story and we still have more to write.”
Among the newcomers who have made an immediate impact is Sami Reynolds, a freshman outfielder from Snohomish. Reynolds has started all 54 games she’s played this season, is the Huskies’ fourth-leading hitter with a .320 average and leads the team in doubles with 14.
Washington was ranked No. 6 and Arizona was No. 3 when the teams played a three-game series earlier this month in Tucson. The Huskies won all three, by scores of 2-1, 3-1 and 7-4, part of UW’s current 12-game winning streak.
Sophomore Gabbie Plain won the first game at Arizona and senior Taran Alvelo won the last two. If there is any significance to the teams playing again Thursday, Tarr wasn’t letting on Sunday night after winning the super regional.
“Just another game,” she said.
If Washington wins, it would play the winner of the UCLA-Minnesota matchup on Friday night. If the Huskies lose Thursday, they would play the loser of the UCLA-Minnesota game in an elimination game Saturday morning.
The Huskies have two of the best pitchers in the country in Plain and Alvelo and with 28 wins in their past 29 games, they are one of the favorites to win the title.
“I just hope we don’t stop getting better,” Tarr said. “I think this group has an endless capacity to learn from the game, learn from all the things we’ve gone through, and with the season we have had, it’s awesome because it builds on itself for the years to come. We want to see how far we can get and if we can accomplish our mission.”