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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Loss of Enquist may make things easier for Arizona softball

    Mike Rittersports writer
    Mike Ritter
    sports writer

    In college softball, good coaching can be one of the most important factors in a team’s success. In softball, good guidance can lead the path to greatness.

    If there was ever a poll of the best softball coaches of all time, the first choice would obviously be Arizona’s Mike Candrea, who has led his team to 18 College World Series appearances in the last 19 years.

    The only time Arizona didn’t make the WCWS in that span, Candrea wasn’t even at the helm; he was coaching Team USA to a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

    Add seven collegiate national titles to that resume, and you’ve got yourself a coach.

    Finishing a close second in that coaches’ poll would be Sue Enquist, the 18-year coach of Arizona’s arch-nemesis UCLA, who recently announced her retirement.

    Enquist may not have quite the resume as Candrea, but she has been a part of 10 national championships at UCLA – the most of any school.

    She was the sole head coach for the last 10 seasons, served as a co-head coach from 1989-96 and was an assistant from 1980-88.

    “”Sue did a great job, and she’s been there a long time,”” Candrea said. “”She felt that this was the right time that she wanted to step aside and move on to something else, and I’m happy for her.””

    Candrea might be happy for other reasons, including that with Enquist’s departure, he no longer has to face the one coach who has beaten him so many times over the years.

    It might make the competition level a little easier in the Pacific 10 Conference, as well as the postseason, at least for the near future.

    “”She’s a good friend of mine, and I really enjoyed competing against her,”” Candrea said. “”UCLA has always been a program that is a lot like us. With the things that we go through and the things they go through, we can kind of relate to one another. A lot of programs haven’t been there, when you’re expected to win every year.””

    For UCLA, the impact shouldn’t bear too much of a difference in the future, especially since the program belongs to a school that has 99 total NCAA championships, beating Stanford’s 92 for the most in college history.

    The change probably won’t hurt the average number of championships won per year at UCLA, but the shift may mean a few down years for the Bruins to get back into the upper echelons of college softball.

    Let it be known that before Arizona won its first national championship in 1991, UCLA was the model of consistency not only in the Pac-10, but the whole country.

    Over the last decade, the model has seemingly been shifting back and forth between the two schools, but all that was accomplished with Enquist at the helm.

    “”We lost a great coach,”” Candrea said. “”Sue did a great job at UCLA, and that program will continue to be a viable force. Recruiting is a big part of this, and they’ll always get good kids there.

    “”I will miss her competitiveness on the field, but I will guarantee you that they will still be a force.””

    The Bruins will continue to be a force, but a force without its leader is a ship with no captain.

    Mike Ritter is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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