As far as postseason ventures go, the UCLA softball team will officially begin its national title defense under unfamiliar circumstances.
The Bruins learned Sunday that they will travel to Gainesville, Fla., as an unseeded team to square off against Jacksonville in their first game of the NCAA Regionals on Friday at 12:30 p.m. It marks the first time in eight years that the Bruins will not be hosting a Regional at Easton Stadium.
“We knew, from the experience of being in postseason runs, that if you give anyone an opportunity ““ meaning inconsistencies and not finishing strong in the Pac-10 ““ it puts the (NCAA) committee in a position to do whatever they choose,” coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “And every year, there are always surprises and shocks (in the NCAA Tournament seeding), but we were mentally prepared already, knowing that we were high and low with the outcome (of games).”
Indeed, it has been a rather wily season for the defending national champions, who head into the postseason with a 33-17 overall record and a 9-12 record in conference play.
UCLA has also been plagued with a series of injuries to key players such as senior shortstop Monica Harrison, redshirt junior outfielder Samantha Camuso and junior pitcher Aleah Macon.
Yet despite the shaky play and the physical derailments, the Bruins haven’t forgotten that they are the reigning champions, determined to push on whether at home or on the road.
“This team is one of the most competitive teams we’ve had in a long time,” redshirt junior center fielder Katie Schroeder said. “It’s like, “˜OK, now it’s time to go ““ do or die.’ We’re definitely excited.”
“Going to wherever, at this point it’s postseason,” Inouye-Perez added. “We’re really looking forward to just getting back on the field because we have yet to be at 100 percent, which is why we’re not seeded higher and which is why we’re not hosting.
“My hope is that our best softball is yet to come.”
No. 4-seeded Florida, the host team, will play Bethune-Cookman in the other bracket of the Gainesville Regional.