Oklahoma is starting the 2022 NCAA Tournament from a familiar position.
The defending National Champions have dominated to this point, racking up a 49-2 record, complete with 35 wins via run rule.
As a result, Patty Gasso’s Sooners earned the No. 1-overall seed in the postseason, making the third NCAA Tournament in the row in which OU enters the field as the top dog.
Naturally, the top spot comes with plenty of pressure and a massive target on Oklahoma's back, but Gasso has been pleased with how her teams have navigated the extra attention.
“I think they’ve handled it really well,” Gasso said Tuesday during a Zoom press conference. “And I think it’s still new to us because people look at the Big 12 as not a prestigious conference.
“So you still think while you’re in the Big 12 people don’t give you that kind of credit.”
Regardless of the outside perception of the Big 12, the results speak for themselves.
Last year, the Sooners left Oklahoma City with the program’s fifth National Championship behind the most explosive offense in the history of the sport and incredible performances in the circle from super senior pitcher Giselle Juarez.
There was no tournament due to the COVID shutdown in 2020, but OU made a deep run in 2019 as well. The Sooners fell in the Women’s College World Series Championship Series to the UCLA Bruins, nearly adding more hardware to the trophy case in Norman.
A key to handling the expectations over the past few seasons, said Gasso, has been Oklahoma's ability to insulate from the outside noise. The Sooners are just focused on improving themselves and playing up their own standards, unbothered by what other people think.
“I don’t think we look at ourselves as anything except a team that’s trying to play our best softball right now,” Gasso said. “So I mean, we've won the national championship as a 10-seed as a 1-seed. We've been all up and down the spectrum.
“So it really doesn't matter where you are, because you're going to have to go through these teams anyhow.”
Up first, the Sooners will have to dispatch of some familiar faces.
Oklahoma will play host to Prairie View A&M (20-28) in its tournament opener on Friday night, but the other two teams headed to the Norman Regional are no strangers to Marita Hynes Field.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers (26-24-1) fell 9-1 to the Sooners earlier this year in OU’s home opener, and the Texas A&M Aggies (29-26) actually were sent to Norman last year to open up regional play.
Despite a nearly-perfect regular season campaign, Gasso said her team is laser-focused and just ready to officially start the national title defense this weekend.
“It’s just wanting to play your best softball,” Gasso said. “…The team is all good to go.
“So I like where we're at and like the way we're practicing.”
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