Six Texas family members supported Gabby "Momma Bear" Banda (77) on Senior Day.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Seniors Lead Huskers into NCAA Tournament

By NU Athletic Communications
Randy York's N-Sider Blog

The Official Blog of the Huskers

You don’t see her in the headlines, but you can’t miss her in the box score. Yes, Nebraska has two of the five unanimous 2013 All-Big Ten Conference selections in junior twins Tatum and Taylor Edwards, but there’s another Californian making a steady difference in Nebraska’s high hopes to create momentum in the NCAA Women’s Softball Tournament. Meet Courtney ‘Spark Plug’ Breault (pronounced BREE-alt), one of four seniors on this year’s Husker team. Breault, a 5-9 senior infielder from Roseville, Calif., came to Nebraska by way of Arkansas, where she made the 2010 SEC All-Freshman Team before battling injuries and transferring to Nebraska and earning back-to-back second-team All-Big Ten honors.

Nebraska Softball Coach Rhonda Revelle has nicknames for all four seniors, and three of them are among the top five hitters in Nebraska’s batting order – third-baseman Gabby ‘Momma Bear’ Banda, Brooke ‘Constant Leader’ Thomason and Breault, the team spark plug. Breault and Thomason both have achieved second-team All-Big Ten status two years in a row, and Revelle will be counting on her senior class to be the experienced-based glue that helps deliver a Lincoln regional title next Sunday. No. 14 seed Nebraska (40-13) hosts the University of Northern Iowa (26-24) Friday at 7 p.m. after Stanford (37-19) plays Tulsa (42-14) at 4 p.m. The 64-team 2013 NCAA Softball Tournament field was released Sunday night. The winner of the double-elimination Lincoln regional will move on to the Super Regionals May 23-26 against the winner of the Eugene Regional, hosted by No. 3 national seed Oregon. The eight Super Regional winners will advance to the NCAA Women’s College World Series. Revelle believes all four Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament — No. 8 national seed Michigan, Big Ten Tournament champion Wisconsin and Minnesota, which edged Nebraska in the tournament’s semifinals Saturday in Lincoln, have the capability to compete at the highest level. If you’re looking for the classic case in point, remember Nebraska handed Oklahoma its first loss of the season in early March.The Sooners (47-4) earned the No. 1 overall seed in the 2013 NCAA Division I Softball Championship and will host an NCAA Regional in Norman.

Even though the Huskers feature talented younger players, Revelle will ask her seniors to continue to be psychological catalysts. Banda, in season four as a starting infielder, plays her “Momma Bear” role like a fiddle, knowing when to motivate, endure and help relieve stress and reduce pressure. The 5-5 senior from Angleton, Texas, is so tough she played her entire junior and senior seasons with a torn ACL. When the going gets tough, she helps her team get going. Friday, she went 1-for-3 at the plate. Breault went 1-for-2, and Thomason was 2-for-3 with a crucial RBI and a run scored, proving why Revelle considers the 5-8 senior outfielder from Overland Park, Kan., a constant leader. Like Banda, she is in her fourth year as a starter and owns a school record two grand slam homeruns, including an historic shot in Nebraska’s first-ever Big Ten Conference softball game against Northwestern. She hit a solo homerun in the sixth inning and a grand slam to win the game with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Revelle is understandably proud of all four senior leaders, and that includes the role Megan Southworth has played. The 5-4 senior from Papillion-LaVista High School in suburban Omaha was recruited as a catcher and made the transition to outfield, starting 28 games as a sophomore. Nebraska’s deep and talented group of outfielders reduced Southworth’s role to pinch-hitting and pinch-running, but make no mistake, she is a superstar in the eyes of her head coach. “Graceful and grateful are the two words that describe Megan,” Revelle said. “She exudes everything good about being a Husker, and she influences this team every day in her own way.” A speech-language pathologist major, Southworth won the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award. She is the ultimate team player, and Revelle sees her succeeding in the biggest game of all – life.

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