For the first time since 2005 and only the fourth time in program history, the University of Wisconsin softball team will play in the NCAA tournament.
"It's something that my class and the senior class really wanted to do since we got here," says La Crosse Logan graduate Michelle Mueller. "And the coaching staff has been one of the biggest reasons why we've done it."
The program is just four years removed from a 15-40 record. This season the Badgers are 42-11 and Big Ten Conference Tournament Champions.
"When our class was recruited the pitch they gave us was, 'Why not be the people who put Wisconsin softball on the map?' To live the dream that we're doing right now is something that gives me goose bumps as I talk about it," says Mueller.
"It's a great thing for us. We're excited. We want to take it one game at a time. And we know this is as far as any team has gotten in Wisconsin softball history."
The Badgers on Tuesday traveled to Eugene, Oregon which plays host to the four team NCAA regional. Joining Wisconsin is third-seeded Oregon, BYU, and North Carolina. UW earned an automatic berth after defeating Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship game.
Wisconsin faces North Carolina (39-19) on Thursday at 5 p.m. CT. The Badgers won an earlier meeting between the two schools back on March 15 at the Louisville Classic.
"You got to at least recognize you've beaten a team before," says Mueller. "Just like we knew we could beat Minnesota because we've beaten them before. As the season goes on you get better as a team, we've gotten better and I'm sure North Carolina has gotten better. They're playing for all they have and we're playing for all we have."
"Just to get one win? We have high hopes. We played well this past weekend beating Michigan, we beat Minnesota again. Why not win the regional, why not take it another step? Just keep climbing the ladder, and keep building the success of our program."
Mueller in her junior season has started in 51 of the team's 53 games playing third base. Her batting average is .322 with 17 runs scored, 37 RBI, and 7 home runs. She is also one of five Wisconsin natives on the team.
"The Wisconsin girls who are on the team this year really have to take pride. Not many people get the chance. Like Coach Healy and I talked about it, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for your home state. And to be one of the people who really helped made a difference, it's a great feeling and it's something I've always wanted to do as a kid."