The 2014 WAC Tournament champion Utah Valley University softball team will make its first-ever NCAA Regional appearance next week at No. 1 overall seed Oregon, as announced Sunday night by the NCAA Division I Softball Committee. The Wolverines and Ducks will meet for the sixth time in the series and for the second time this season.
Albany (33-11) and Wisconsin (34-18) stand at the other side of the Regional, which begins Friday, May 16, and will follow a double elimination format. Utah Valley and Oregon are slated for a 6 p.m. MT start time.
"This is something that we envisioned at the beginning of the season — to see our names called on ESPN — and we're excited and honored to represent the university on this stage," UVU head coach Nikki Palmer said. "We're excited to be facing Oregon again and we'll be ready for them. We were still hungry when we left there a couple months ago and we had a feeling we might see them again."
Friday marks the second time this season that UVU (18-40) and UO (49-7-1) have met as the Wolverines made the trip to Eugene in late April to face the Ducks in a doubleheader. UVU dropped the first game by a score of 8-0, but took No. 1 team in the nation to the wire in game two before being edged 5-4. The Wolverines are 0-5 all-time against Oregon.
Utah Valley reeled off four straight wins at the WAC Tournament to claim the league's automatic bid, topping No. 1 seed New Mexico State twice on the way to the title. Senior pitcher Josi Summers was named the tournament MVP after going 3-0 with a save in four games. She held opponents to a .135 batting average on the weekend and posted a 1.62 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 21.1 innings pitched. Meanwhile, Debra Lovell, Erin Romero and Brittney Vansway were named to the All-Tournament team. Lovell hit two home runs and finished with five RBIs in the tournament championship.
Oregon is the tournament's No. 1 overall seed for the first time in program history and ended the season having sat atop the rankings for five consecutive weeks. The Ducks are the Pac-12 regular season champion and are led by left-handed pitcher Cheridan Hawkins, owner of a 30-4 record and a 1.56 ERA.
The winner of Friday's game advances to face the winner of the Albany-Wisconsin matchup on the lower side of the bracket. UVU faced the Great Danes of Albany earlier this season, taking a 3-0 win behind Summers' no-hitter. It was the first no-hitter of the senior's career and the first time the feat had ever been accomplished in Utah Valley's Division I tenure. Albany reaches the NCAA Tournament after winning the America East Tournament title for the fifth time in its program history.
The Wolverines have never faced the Badgers, an at-large selection to the Championship.
Utah Valley softball represents the first team sport since UVU transitioned to Division I to earn a berth in the NCAA postseason. It is also the first UVU team to receive the WAC's automatic qualifying bid since joining the league last summer.
The Wolverines are one of three schools from Utah to advance to Regionals, joining West Coast Conference champion BYU and Big Sky Conference title winner Southern Utah.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.