Now that's it's all over, a couple of thoughts on the 2018 campaign.
1. It was a very good year overall for the team. Never bad to win 40-plus games (which they did for the 5th straight season). Also never bad to bring home some hard-ware, which they have obviously done regularly when it comes to conference competition.
2. Still a long ways to go before they're truly going to be respected on the national stage. We all know what they need to do and so do they. But as of now, they're not getting it done in the NCAAs. The NCAA openly disrespected this program last season. And while I can't necessarily point to that as a factor for this season, the NCAA softball bosses have shown what they really think of Minnesota when push comes to shove. IMO, that's what coach Trachsel and the ladies face.
In other words, they'll have to go on the road and upset somebody on their home field to gain even some level of national respect. I don't think it's a coincidence that when the Gophers won the Regional in 2014, they did so at Cowles. And knocked off Auburn to do it. As a result, I figure the NCAA will do everything in it's power to stop that from happening again. It is what it is, and the ladies eventually will have to break through away from home.
3. The question is whether this group, minus the five seniors from this team plus the group coming in next year, can take that next step. There's been plenty of on-field success for the team (233-59 overall the past five years, 94-17 in conference, 4 Big Ten Tournament titles and 1 Big 10 regular season title). But at some point, you'd like to see them take that next step. Going to be extremely tough for reasons articulated in my second point, but that's the mountain to climb.
4. Congrats to this senior class on a fantastic career in maroon and gold! Never failed to finish either first or second in the Big 10, won three conference tourneys, one conference regular season title and I think advanced to the regional finals in each of their four years.
5. Anxious to see if this program can take the next step sometime within the next few seasons. There are still plenty of really good players on the roster and it looks like next year's class will add a few more. Plus, all the pitchers figure to return.
All and all, the team continues to be very enjoyable to watch. Hopefully, they can add some more joy in coming seasons.