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All-conference honorees lead No. 1 seed UCLA softball into final Pac-12 tournament

Freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Terry swings her arm. Terry was named the 2024 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. (Karla Cardenas-Felipe/Daily Bruin)

By Nicole Augusta

May 7, 2024 6:45 p.m.

This post was updated May 8 at 2:05 p.m.

Rarely does a second attempt at a title come with the knowledge of finality.

But the second Pac-12 tournament also marks the conference’s final event before its demise.

With the stakes raised, the quest for redemption ensues.

No. 1 seed UCLA softball (34-10, 17-4 Pac-12) will commence play at the Pac-12 tournament in Palo Alto on Thursday. Winning the first two rounds would send the team to Saturday’s championship contest – an opportunity to avenge last year’s loss on the same stage. The slate opens for the Bruins against the winner of No. 8 seed Oregon State (21-28, 9-15) and No. 9 seed Arizona State (19-30, 3-21) on Wednesday.

While the Beavers dropped their final conference series against the Golden Bears, their third-game comeback win solidified their fifth conference win against a ranked opponent this season.

Should Arizona State taste victory Wednesday, the ensuing fight against UCLA would be reminiscent of last weekend’s clash to conclude the regular season. The Bruins’ sweep came after the series victory clinched the conference title.

Regardless of Thursday’s opponent, redshirt senior outfielder Janelle Meoño said the Bruins will stay true to their game.

“Our preparation has been the same since the beginning – we treat every game like it’s important,” Meoño said. “They’re both really good teams, and we’ve obviously faced them both, but just analyzing because we’ve played them a bunch of times already.”

If UCLA advances to the semifinal, it will meet the victor of No. 4 Washington and No. 5 Arizona. As this tournament represents the conference’s final surge, sophomore infielder Jordan Woolery said the competition and the teams involved – including the Wildcats – represent a bittersweet chapter in the annals of collegiate softball.

“We are the conference of champions – us, and even Arizona – there’s so much history and so many national championships that have been won within the Pac-12,” Woolery said. “It’s really cool, but it’s also sad to see it go. But I’m excited to go out one last time and celebrate Pac-12 too.”

In addition to a top seed, the Bruins boast a decorated roster, including the Pac-12 Player of the Year – redshirt senior shortstop Maya Brady – and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in pitcher Kaitlyn Terry. Steering the ship is Pac-12 Coach of the Year Kelly Inouye-Perez, who, along with Brady, received the accolade for the second year in a row.

Brady was also awarded the conference’s player of the week, marking her third weekly honor and UCLA’s ninth of the season – tied with Stanford for the most claimed by any school this year.

A fresh army of pitchers has the chance to ascend the circle for the Bruins in this year’s conference title campaign. Sophomore Taylor Tinsley has recorded two conference pitcher of the week nods for her efforts this season, while Woolery said the conference has bore witness to Terry’s growth as well.

“She’s just gotten so much better throughout the year and so much stronger, and she just puts in so much work,” Woolery said. “It’s really cool to see that come to fruition on the field.”

The Bruins’ Pac-12 legacy stretches far beyond that of the tournament – and their roster, Meoño said, presents the least cause for concern.

“This team – we’ve grown so much. And honestly, I feel like we all love each other so much, and it’s so much fun being with them,” Meoño said. “It’s amazing to see everyone play an important role in this team because we need everybody, and it’s shown a lot.”

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Nicole Augusta
Augusta is a 2024-2025 co-Copy chief and a Sports senior staff writer. She was previously a 2023-2024 slot editor. Augusta is a rising fourth-year human biology and society student.
Augusta is a 2024-2025 co-Copy chief and a Sports senior staff writer. She was previously a 2023-2024 slot editor. Augusta is a rising fourth-year human biology and society student.
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