Softball heads to regionals after winning the MWC

After making a miracle run through the Mountain West Conference Championships, the U women’s softball team won the conference tournament with a 3-0 victory against the San Diego State Aztecs on May 15.

The victory qualified the Utes for the upcoming regional NCAA tournament which will be held in Palo Alto, Calif., on the campus of Stanford University. Having received the lowest possible seed of No. 8, the Utes will face the nationally ranked Stanford Cardinals, seeded No. 1, in the first round of the regional tournament. The game will be played Thursday afternoon at 5:30.

Sophomore pitcher Brianna Gourdin was the superstar for the Utes in the conference tourney, as she started every game of the tournament, winning all three games and giving up only eight hits while pitching two shutouts. The Utes as a team gave up only one run in the three games of the tournament.

Despite Gourdin’s amazing pitching, head coach Mona Stevens said that the team didn’t do anything unique, it just played the style of game they knew it was capable of all along.

The Utes opened the year with a very tough nonconference schedule, and according to Stevens, the team learned to lose after several heartbreaking losses.

She said that the conference championship was simply a result of the team finally realizing that it was capable of much more.

“They didn’t do anything spectacular,” Stevens said. “We had to overcome the mental barrier of a losing team, and once we did that, we knew that we could win the tournament.”

After a season that featured a 10-game losing streak, the Utes entered the tournament with a lowly record of 20-31 on the season, but managed to surprise everyone but themselves with their historic three-game run to the MWC title.

Gourdin, named the tournament MVP, was clearly the catalyst for the Utes’ strong performance, but Stevens said that it was more a matter of her team coming together at the right time.

“Brianna Gourdin, who only gave up eight hits this weekend, was the reason our team played so loose,” Stevens said. “But I’m not at all surprised about this victory, as funny as that sounds. Our biggest frustration this season has been not playing up to our potential.”

The turnaround for the team could not have come at a better time, considering that the Utes had just finished their season with a two-game set against each of the three teams they defeated in the conference tourney (UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State).

The Utes were 1-5 in those six games, which didn’t bode well for the upcoming tournament.

In fact, the Utes had just dropped two consecutive games to its first-round opponent, UNLV, just days prior to the conference tourney. The Rebels had only defeated the Utes by one run in each game, but UNLV was having little trouble scoring against the Utes.

That all changed in the first round of the MWC tourney, as Gourdin buckled down to win her 16th game of the year with a four-hit shutout.

The Utes were equally potent in the second round, where they defeated Colorado State by a final score of 2-1 in Gourdin’s 17th win of the year.

The Utes will need to have everything going their way to compete with Stanford, but regardless of the outcome of the Utes’ upcoming battle, winning the conference tournament was an amazing end to a tumultuous season.

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