MADISON, Wis. - Michelle Mueller didn't imagine her college career playing out like this.
"I don't think so."
When Mueller joined the Wisconsin Badgers softball program they only had one NCAA tournament appearance over the past decade.
For the second consecutive season the Badgers have earned an at-large berth in the Oregon Regional. Back-to-back tourney trips is a first in program history. It means Mueller's final game played in a Wisconsin uniform will be in an NCAA tournament game.
"You always want your senior year to be your best year, the most memorable," said Mueller prior to the team departing for Eugene, Oregon. "And so far this year it has been just that."
The La Crosse Logan graduate in 2014 set a new school single-season RBI record. She's a home run away from tying the school mark. And was recognized as a second-team All-Big Ten selection.
"We had some struggles, but in struggle you become stronger and now we're one of the toughest teams I think. Mentally we are able to handle battles and to be with a bunch of girls my senior year who can do it and go to a regional again, it doesn't get much better."
The Badgers posted a 2-2 record at last year's NCAA Regional. Their season ended losing to Oregon 3-0. The number-one ranked team in the country will once again stand in the way of Wisconsin.
"We've been on that field, we've played Oregon. That's something that couldn't of been said about UCLA had we gone there, or Alabama, or Oklahoma. It gives us a little bit of confidence, it gives us a little bit of an edge going into the weekend.
"And it's our second time in the NCAA tournament so we're more familiar, we're more relaxed, and we've been through it. It's not new to us where it was last year. And the teams we've beaten this year in the Top 25, we've done it consistently all year."
Wisconsin has been an underdog since the moment Mueller stepped on campus, so it's no surprise she still embraces that role.
"They're the best team in the country right now," Mueller said about Oregon. "We've accepted the story of David vs. Goliath all year, we've accepted that we're David and we're going to have to go out and play great softball. As Coach (Randy) Schneider says, we're this little red army that travels together."
The Badgers open up the regional facing Albany 4 p.m. (CST) on Friday in the four-team, double-elimination bracket. Click here to go to the tournament website, which includes a free link to watch games.