A vintage stage is set in the championship series in the Women’s College World Series.
The Arizona Wildcats, winners of eight national NCAA softball titles, and the UCLA Bruins, winners of 10 national titles, will face off in a best-of-three series starting Monday at 5 p.m. Pacific time.
The two teams are historically the winningest programs in the WCWS.
“I guess it is like old times,” said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea. “Back then it was a white ball with white seams, aluminum bats and now we have composite bat that’s changed the complexity of the game a bit.”
“But overall it still comes down, at this stage, of getting great pitching performances, playing great defense and doing the little things that it takes to win.”
The two teams first met in the championship series in 1991, a first of three straight meetings between UCLA and Arizona.
The programs have met a total of six times, with the Wildcats hold the edge 4-2 over the Bruins in the championship game.
The Wildcats are 8-5 all time in WCWS game against the Bruins, but because the program later vacated the 1995 title game, a 8-4 record is more precise.
This years’ matchup is the first between the teams under best-of-three contest.
Regardless of the outcome of the games, the Pacific 10 Conference will take home its 22nd NCAA Softball Championship, and it will be the 16th time a Pac-10 school has been the runner up.
“Coming in a little bit of the motivation is the hype about the SEC. The SEC is a very good conference but we still believe that the Pac-10 can hold it’s own,” Candrea said. “It’s kind of fun right now to culminate with two Pac-10 teams. I kind of like that personally.”
Arizona has had the more recent success in the championship series. The Wildcats took home back-to-back titles in 2007 and 08. The Bruins haven’t won a championship in softball since 2004.
“It’s a great feeling. It feels like it’s been a little too long,” UCLA senior Megan Langenfeld said.
The Wildcats are back in the fight for the title for the first time since they won defeated Tennessee in 2007. UCLA was last in the championship series in 2005 when Michigan beat the Bruins to be the first school to earn the national title east of the Mississippi.
The Pac-10 foes met in the last weekend of the regular season and have not met in NCAA tournament play thus far.
UCLA is perfect in WCWS play this year, knocking off Florida, Hawaii and Georgia to advance.
For Arizona, the battle tested road to get back to the championship round is an accomplishment in and of itself, but Candrea says the Wildcats aren’t satisfied with just getting to the championship game — they want to take it back to Tucson.
“We’ve talked about getting where we want to get, and we’re not there yet,” Candrea said after the Wildcats defeated Tennessee twice on Sunday to advance. “We’ve done what we needed to do to get to the championship series and we get to play a opponent that we know very well.”