UCLA softball rising sophomores to represent Team USA in Japan All-Star Series
Jordan Woolery runs the bases for UCLA softball. The rising sophomore infielder, alongside rising sophomore utility Megan Grant, will represent Team USA at the Japan All-Star Series. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)
By Jack Nelson
Aug. 3, 2023 1:30 p.m.
This post was updated August 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Megan Grant and Jordan Woolery have spent the past year getting familiar with the four letters embroidered on their college threads.
They’ll now take on a new identity, donning a shorter yet internationally meaningful acronym — USA.
UCLA softball’s rising sophomores will take the diamond with world No. 1 United States at the Japan All-Star Series, set to take place Friday through Monday. With the 2024 Paris Olympic Games nearing, they’ll oppose No. 2 Japan in three games played across venues in Fukushima, Iwakuni and Yokohama.
“It’s a great honor. I know all the talent and seeing these girls I looked up to, some of them are my age, and people I’ve idolized that have played for Team USA,” Woolery said. “To be that person and have that opportunity really means a lot.”
Both Grant, a utility, and Woolery, an infielder, will make their debut with the women’s national team, and they’ll be surrounded by plenty of fellow fresh faces. For nine members of the 16-person roster, the All-Star Series marks their first national team selection, and all 16 still possess NCAA eligibility.
The Bruin duo established themselves as a freshmen force last season, and the Women’s National Team Selection Committee took notice, selecting the pair following evaluations of their collegiate play and performance at Team USA events, trials and camps.
Woolery is coming off a Pac-12 Freshman of the Year campaign, hitting her way to the conference’s fifth-highest batting average and eighth-highest slugging percentage. Grant, an All-Pac-12 First Team selection herself, finished third in the Pac-12 in RBIs and fourth in home runs.
Grant said her first year with the Bruins, as well as the high-caliber competition that came with it, was critical in preparing her for the WNT.
“It’s a different game than it is in travel ball, and in the best way possible,” Grant said. “I’ve got to learn so much while being at UCLA, and I’m going to take all the information I got from there and just bring it with me to Team USA.”
And just as they traded in their college jerseys for national ones, Grant and Woolery will briefly swap out the teachings of Bruins’ coach Kelly Inouye-Perez for those of a different bench boss.
John Rittman, head coach for Clemson softball, will guide the duo as he takes on the first head-coaching task in his 10 years with Team USA. With all the coaching mileage he’s collected, Rittman recognizes what Grant and Woolery are now a part of.
“For us to have the opportunity to come over here and showcase the talent in America and play in front of big crowds, … for all the young girls out there that dream about playing in the Olympics, this is certainly a great opportunity to grow the sport,” Rittman said.
The newly appointed WNT head coach – better known in UCLA circles for his 18-year tenure helming Stanford – has a shining track record on the international stage, serving on the coaching staff for six gold medal-winning teams at the World Baseball Softball Confederation World Championships, Pan American Games and Olympic Games.
Rittman said the weaponry and options that Grant and Woolery provide earned them their place in a sea of collegiate standouts.
“They’re both tremendous hitters – the offensive potential is just outstanding,” Rittman said. “Both of them are very versatile defensively and just provide a big offensive punch for us.”
But as new of an experience as it will be for the two Bruins, they’ll also be in it together – representing one of just three college softball programs with multiple selections to the Japan All-Star Series roster.
In Grant’s mind, that’s quite the plus.
“Oh man, Jordy is my right-hand woman,” Grant said. “Ever since travel ball, we’ve just been going at it, and she’s literally one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. And I’m just so excited we get to experience this together.”