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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Will the softball team be affected by the absence of two longtime coaches?

    PRO: Candrea has a lot on his mind

    I recently took a flight from Tucson to San Diego. Sitting nearby was legendary UA softball coach Mike Candrea, as well as former greats Lovie Jung, Alicia Hollowell, Caitlin Lowe and Jennie Finch.

    When I asked Candrea in the airplane how his team’s outlook was for 2008, I received an answer I wasn’t expecting.

    He told me the team would start training the following day and that it would be ready to compete for another gold medal.

    That was when I remembered what Candrea’s main focus was for the 2008 calendar year – not the Arizona softball team, but the U.S. Olympic softball team, which would start training the following day in San Diego’s Olympic Training Center.

    It’s certainly a great honor for Candrea and Wildcat alumni to represent the country in what is the last scheduled term for softball in the Olympics – the sport will be dropped from the 2012 Olympics.

    But what does it mean for the program for which Candrea established his credentials as the most elite softball coach in the country?

    Coming off two consecutive national championships, the Wildcats’ track record is hardly at stake, but for interim head coach Larry Ray, Candrea’s absence may prove to be a true litmus test, one that the team may not be ready to face.

    If it is not a known fact that Candrea has essentially righted the Wildcats’ ship to perfection, here’s an unbelievable statistic:

    The only year since 1987 the team hasn’t been to a Women’s College World Series was 2004 – yes, the last time Candrea coached the U.S. Olympic team, and yes, the last time Ray was at the helm.

    It’s a stretch to say the Wildcats will be pressing without Candrea. Ray has been his right-hand man for 17 years, and if he wasn’t trusted, he wouldn’t be this season’s head coach.

    The Wildcats will also be without pitching coach Nancy Evans, who left the position for another job this offseason. Taking her place will be former UA linebacker and popular Tucson pitching coach Gale Bundrick – no slouch to pitching dynamics.

    The Wildcats certainly have the talent to compete with the best teams in the country, and their multiple No. 1 preseason rankings would reflect that, but the changes at the top may keep the team from reaching its fullest potential in 2008.

    -Mike Ritter,
    sports editor


    CON: ‘Cats will continue excellence

    Legendary softball coach Mike Candrea has said recently if he didn’t have the utmost trust and belief in interim head coach Larry Ray and the team, he wouldn’t even think about leaving them for the U.S. Olympic team.

    That being said, it’s apparent that Ray has caught on to at least some of the coaching techniques, styles and strategies Candrea has exercised over the years, as he is a 17-year veteran of Candrea’s staff.

    “”I have done it before and it is not that different from what I have done in the past,”” Ray said. “”I am the one who makes the lineup card as opposed to Candrea now and I am the one who calls when to steal and when to go and that kind of stuff. But it really is not that much different. Not much has changed.””

    And it’s not like Ray is foreign to the idea of winning. When he was interim head coach in 2004 – though it was the only year since 1987 the team hadn’t made the Women’s College Word Series in Candrea’s tenure – he still did lead the Wildcats to a 55-6 record (17-3 Pacific 10 Conference) and a Pac-10
    Conference title.

    This year, the No. 1 Wildcats look to be sitting pretty. They have been named as the best team in all of the polls, including the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll that was announced Tuesday.

    It’s obvious the softball experts don’t have any lack of faith in Ray’s abilities.

    It would probably be more of an issue if the players were unfamiliar with Ray and his coaching technique, but he has influenced the team just as much as they have been by Candrea.

    The key to a successful coach is a solid staff behind the scenes. Without Ray, it would be hard to tell whether Candrea would have been able to accomplish the things that he has.

    The team is experienced enough to handle the change and continue their usual mark of excellence, and Ray is knowledgeable enough to maintain the standard of winning the Arizona softball team has become accustomed to.

    “”Their expectations are the same, the fact they want us to work as hard as possible,”” said UA pitcher Taryne Mowatt. “”Their philosophies are pretty much the same, so it’s not that big of a difference in that regard.””

    -Ari Wasserman,
    assistant sports editor

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