UW Takes Fast Track In Softball -- NCAA Bid Is Huskies' Reward For Making All The Right Moves
There were other factors - the building year Coach Teresa Wilson had before a game was played, the school making good on commitments for scholarships, travel and a ballpark.
But if not for the players Wilson recruited back when there was nothing - no team, no field, no tradition - the University of Washington softball program wouldn't be where it is today as one of 32 teams in the NCAA Tournament
"When you're recruiting, you pick four to six kids you want to build your program around," said Wilson, whose team finished 43-19 this season after a 31-27 inaugural season. "A lot rests on your ability to get those kids."
Wilson's key recruits were catcher Jennifer Cline, of Westminster, Calif.; outfielder Angie Marzetta, of Tega Cay, S.C.; first baseman Michelle Church, Riverside, Calif.; and pitcher Nancy Wagner of Phoenix.
"They were the `biggies' for us," Wilson said.
They were "biggies" because they were being recruited by several major schools. When they agreed to enroll at Washington, it gave Wilson credibility.
"Every recruiting call you make, they ask, `Well, who else have you signed?' " Wilson said. "Once Jennifer, Michelle, Nancy and Angie had signed, the others followed."
Cline, a sophomore, leads Washington in home runs with nine while batting .323. Her double in the first inning drove in both Husky runs in last Saturday's 2-1 upset of No. 1-ranked Arizona.
Marzetta, a senior, has come back from a knee ligament sprain to lead the Huskies in hitting (.375) and the Pac-10 Conference in stolen bases (36). After leading off with a single, she scored the first run against Arizona.
Church, a sophomore batting .357 who leads the ballclub in RBI (64), is the team captain. She and outfielder Mindy Williams have been in all 120 games played by the Huskies.
Wagner (18-9), a senior, became the first Husky to pitch a no-hitter (April 10 against Willamette) and a perfect game (April 26 against Simon Fraser). She has thrown four one-hitters.
Cline, Church and Marzetta were together for their Husky recruiting visit in the fall of 1992. Because there were no players to talk to and no field to look at, it was a strange weekend.
"It seemed like all we did was eat and talk," Church said.
They talked to Wilson and assistant coach John Rittman and heard promises about what the future would be like. They talked to academic people. They talked to each other.
To compensate for having no players to help sell the program, Wilson provided telephone numbers of players she had coached during two years at Minnesota (the Gophers won the Big Ten championship in 1991).
Church said she planned to accept a scholarship offer from Minnesota. "But then they (Wilson and Rittman) decided to come here, and they continued to recruit me," Church said. "And on my visit I fell in love with the campus."
Wilson and Rittman decided to recruit the best players possible.
"We had a unique opportunity," Church said. "They could go out and hand-pick players, like `I'm going to take this first baseman, this second baseman, this shortstop.' They had a chance to create a team."
Wilson said that having a year to build a team before it played has paid off. Rushing a team onto the field wouldn't work. A "perfect example," she said, was Stanford, which did not take the time and went 1-41 last season. The Cardinal took a leave of absence from the Pac-10 this year.
Wilson, 32, said promises made to her about facilities, travel and scholarship funding have been kept by the athletic department.
The new diamond east of Husky Stadium "will be one of the best in the country when the grandstand is built," Wilson said.
Being able to travel for games against top teams outside the Pac-10 is important when NCAA Tournament teams are being selected.
In addition to beating No. 1 Arizona, the No. 10 Huskies posted victories over three other teams ranked ahead of them - No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 6. Fresno State and No. 9 Utah.
Washington awards 11 softball scholarships, the NCAA maximum.
Gaining a berth in the NCAA Tournament satisfied one of the team's goals for this year, Church said. So did being ranked in the top 10.
"We're trying to not get that feeling that we're a two-year program and we're just happy to get to regionals," Church said. "I guess it would be OK to say that. But we're going to regionals, so who's to say we can't win? We're good enough.
"At this level of softball, anything can happen."
In their second season, the Huskies already have proved that.
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