The 18th-ranked Nebraska softball team earned an at-large invitation to the 2014 NCAA Tournament when the pairings were announced live on ESPNU Sunday night. The Huskers will travel to Columbia, Mo., for an NCAA Regional that includes Missouri, the No. 15 national seed, along with Kansas and Bradley. Nebraska will open the regional against the Jayhawks on Friday.
Nebraska was selected for postseason play for the 18th time in the past 20 seasons. Overall, the Huskers will be making their 22nd all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, a total that ranks 10th in NCAA history. NU owns a 55-45 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, posting the 13th-highest win total in NCAA history. After advancing to the program’s seventh Women’s College World Series in 2013, the Huskers will be seeking back-to-back trips to the WCWS for the first time since 1987 and 1988. Nebraska’s seven all-time appearances at the Women’s College World Series rank 10th in NCAA history.
The Huskers’ path back to Oklahoma City will not be an easy one. Nebraska opens postseason play with a rematch against a Kansas squad (33-21) it edged, 1-0, on March 15. Missouri (41-16) owns 11 wins over ranked teams this spring, and the Tigers have won six consecutive NCAA Regionals, one of only three teams nationally who have advanced to six straight NCAA Super Regionals. Bradley (27-30) is the lone automatic qualifier in the NCAA Columbia Regional, as the Braves went 3-0 last weekend to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
Head Coach Rhonda Revelle, the 2014 Big Ten Coach of the Year, hopes a challenging schedule will help the Huskers in their quest to get back to the Women’s College World Series. Nebraska played 20 of its 55 games against teams that qualified for the 2014 NCAA Tournament, posting a 10-10 record against that group, including victories over national seeds No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 8 Florida State, No. 12 Washington and No. 16 Minnesota.
“As a lot of teams were coming up, it was like ‘we’ve faced them’,” Revelle said of watching the selection show. “I’m really proud that the Big Ten got five teams in. I feel like we’re prepared. We’ve played teams from conferences from all over the country I just feel like we are as prepared as we can be at this point in time.
“I feel good about our team. I feel like we finished the last part of the season playing good softball.”
Nebraska, the co-Big Ten regular-season champion, was one of five Big Ten teams to make the NCAA Tournament, the conference’s highest total since 2009. Big Ten Tournament champion Minnesota was the lone conference team to earn a national seed, as the Golden Gophers were tabbed as the No. 16 seed and will host a regional this weekend. Michigan, which joined Nebraska at the 2013 Women’s College World Series, Northwestern and Wisconsin also earned invites to the NCAA Tournament.
The game time for Friday’s matchups between Nebraska and Kansas and Missouri and Bradley have not been set. The NCAA Regional features a double-elimination format. The winner of the Columbia Regional will be paired up against the Tuscaloosa Regional, hosted by No. 2 seed Alabama.
NCAA Columbia (Mo.) Regional Schedule
Friday, May 16
Nebraska vs. Kansas, 12:30 p.m. (Game 1)
Missouri vs. Bradley, 3 p.m. (Game 2)
Saturday, May 17
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 3:30 p.m. (Game 3)
Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 6 p.m. (Game 4)
Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3, 8:30 p.m. (Game 5)
Sunday, May 18
Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5, Noon (Game 6)
Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6, 2:30 p.m. (Game 7)*