USF softball eyes first trip to Oklahoma in 5 years

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Every season starts off the same for the USF softball team.

"If you ask me what our record's going to be, I'm going to tell you 56-0," said USF softball head coach, Ken Eriksen. "There's not one game we're going out there to think we're not going to win. Then the rhetorical statement would be, 'Well, what if you drop the first one?' Well, then we're 55-1."

But on game days, the Bulls never talk about winning.

"I've never told these guys, and you can get them off to the side, they have to win," said Eriksen. "It's not what we talk about. We talk about having a flawless practice. The scoreboard will take care of itself."

The Bulls won the American Athletic Conference's regular season championship last year. A top 25 team entering the season, they're also picked to finish second in the AAC. Team comradery may be the difference maker this year.

"Having the bond that we have, it's just making being out there a lot of fun," said Kristen Wyckoff, USF's second baseman. "I feel like, last year, toward the end of the season, the fun aspect maybe got away from us a little bit."

The Bulls fell short of the NCAA Super Regional last year. This season, they begin with a Women's College World Series-caliber schedule. In their first four games, they'll face both Florida and Michigan, two teams that consistently make it to Oklahoma City.

"That builds a callus on fear," said Eriksen. "It builds a callus on the unknown, when we play teams like that, day-in and day-out. That's why we do it. I challenge anybody to take a look at the schedule that programs put together. This is a good one."

Now, the Bulls are eyeing a run to Oklahoma City for themselves. It's been five years since they have reached the pinnacle of college softball, and that's before any of these players stepped foot on to campus.

USF opens their 2017 season Thursday at home against Illinois State.