MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Gophers have been one of the best softball teams in the country all season, but they will still head into the College World Series as big underdogs.
Tuesday they departed for Oklahoma City and a date with UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday. Not many predict them to win it all, and that’s just fine with this Gopher team.
This season, they have achieved what no team in school history ever has before.
“There’s something special about sharing a lot of firsts together. I think it bonds a group of people,” said Coach Jamie Trachsel.
Of course, doing something that you’ve never done before brings its own set of challenges as well. How do you prepare for an experience that everyone on the team is experiencing for the first time?
“I think it just allows us to play free. You know we have everything to gain, nothing really to lose. You know, I think all the teams there have been there before … [we’re] the only one without the experience, and I think that’s awesome. I think we can just go right at opponents and really just enjoy the experience, but also challenge to win games,” said outfielder Maddie Houlihan said.
Utility player Natalie DenHartog says the team is right where they want to be.
“We want to be the underdog. We want to be underestimated, we want to prove some people wrong, and that’s what we’re out to do,” DenHartog said.
Coach Trachsel says being the underdog doesn’t mean being satisfied with just getting to the big game.
“We feel proud to have earned this opportunity, but by no means was it just to get to the World Series. Like, you always re-focus, re-attack what’s in front of you, and you know, we have every intention … [to] go out there to prepare for our opponent, and go out there and make them really uncomfortable and try to ruin their day, and try to win,” Trachsel said.
But does anyone think they can?
“I hope not. We kind of operate well as the underdog and the dark horse, so we’re OK with that role,” Trachsel said.