May 21, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Shawn Rychcik started pushing his North Carolina State softball team for more from the moment he took over the struggling program.

Expect to win, he told them. Start by making an NCAA regional tournament, then aim to go a little farther each year.

That approach has the Wolfpack within two wins of the Women's College World Series in just his third season.

''It's not that we've done any crazy drills or crazy practices,'' Rychcik said. ''It's just the mentality that we're going to have to do everything right to win, and we've done a pretty good job of that.''

N.C. State (38-20) is in the NCAA super regionals for the first time in its 12-year history as a fast-pitch varsity program and joins Kentucky as the only unseeded teams in the round of 16.

The Wolfpack's reward is a trip to No. 2 national seed Oregon (49-6) for a best-of-3 series, which opens Friday night to determine who advances to Oklahoma City.

Shortstop Renada Davis and pitcher Emily Weiman, a pair of all-Atlantic Coast Conference seniors, were freshmen on a 23-31 team in 2012. That was before Rychcik arrived after eight seasons at Boston University, where he led the Terriers to the America East tournament title and an NCAA regional in three of his last four seasons.

Change came quickly. Rychcik guided his first Wolfpack team to the program's second ACC title and first NCAA trip since 2007.

''I think he came in with the mentality that it's not going to take us four years to build this program - we're going to go win now,'' said Weiman, the program's all-time winningest pitcher with 108 victories.

''I think that's something that we weren't really maybe used to right away. ... After ACCs, we were like, `Oh, let's have our end-of-the-year party.' Now it's, `No, we have regionals to go to.' We want to build this program up.''

The Wolfpack went a combined 34-67 in ACC regular-season play in the five years before Rychcik's arrival. But N.C. State has gone 42-23 since, reaching an NCAA regional final in each of his first two seasons before going 3-0 to win last week's regional at host James Madison.

That success starts with Weiman and Davis. Weiman entered the weekend ranked in the top 10 nationally in strikeouts (315), wins (31) and shutouts (11), while Davis is batting a team-high .387 and holds the ACC's career home runs record.

Davis said her team is OK with its underdog status this weekend, while Rychcik is hoping to ''skip a couple of steps'' in the program's gradual climb.

''Now, walking into Oregon, you know .. the crowd's going to be a little bit louder, the expectations are going to be a little bit higher, but we come to play,'' Davis said. ''This whole team comes to play every day.''

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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