After only 16 varsity seasons, there is no question that Texas has elevated itself to one of the top programs in the country.
No longer considered a start-up program on the rise, the Longhorns have reached the Women’s College World Series a total of four times, even setting the record for the fastest ascension to the sport’s big dance after only two years of existence.
However, it has been a long seven years since the last time Texas made an appearance at this signature event. In order to have a truly successfully season this year, the Longhorns need to make their way back to the WCWS.
The team has made it to the NCAA Regional in the each of the past eight years, even making the Super Regional last season. But for some reason, Texas has had trouble in post-season play.
After only being one game away last year from the tournament and feeling the pain of sitting at home while eight teams, including two they had beaten at least once in the regular season, played for a national title, the Longhorns used that as incentive for this year.
“We all felt like that could have been us [in the WCWS],” senior pitcher Blaire Luna said. “Coming into this year, we have used that as motivation. We know what it feels like to be one game away. So it has definitely pushed us to work harder.”
Head coach Connie Clark has been the leader of this program since its inception in 1997 and has seen many impressive teams wear the burnt orange uniform, so it is hard to put a distinct title on which of her 16 teams has been the best — but this season’s squad comes close.
Coming off a recent sixth place classification in ESPN’s power rankings, the Longhorns are on a 12-game winning streak. This is the second win streak of 11 or longer this season. The last time that happened in a single season was in 2003, in which the Longhorns made it to the semifinals of the WCWS before being eliminated by UCLA, which took the title that year.
In addition, Texas has been ranked in the top 10 of the NFCA poll every week this season. The last time the Longhorns went the whole season in the top 10 except for one week was, again, 2003.
The Longhorns have a strong group of athletes capable of making a long run into post-season play — just like 2003. But in order for this season to truly be successful, they have to carry out their full potential. Too many times Clark has seen her team have its season ended early, but this season they have a good chance to change that.