COLUMBIA, SC - Playing to your competition can be looked as a bad thing but for the South Carolina softball team they play up against the best.
USC made it's fifth straight NCAA tournament under head coach Beverly Smith. They start Regional play in Tucson, Az this Friday against St. Francis. The Gamecocks are in the same region as two seed Arizona but USC has beaten 4 of the top 16 teams in the tournament. They won't be phased by St. Francis or the Wildcats.
"I think we really worked on having a consistent culture and being able to really attack any team and one of our goals was to be a top 25 team and we ended up being ranked towards the end of the season so playing in the SEC, we play ranked teams all the time," USC senior first baseman Kaylea Snaer said. "You have to beat ranked teams if you're in the SEC so that's really been our driving force that we can compete with everybody and we want to be a team that everybody wants to beat as well."
The SEC put all 13 teams in the NCAA tournament this year which speaks to the level of competition South Carolina has faced because of that Smith believes her team has the edge over St. Francis.
"I think the advantage we have over them is strength of schedule," Smith said. "We have seen competition from February through May so I think the level of play we've seen is probably our advantage but on game day you just got to go 60 feet and turn left. It's all going to be the same thing but they're are certainly quality opponent."
This is program that is used to being in the tournament. It's their 20th time in the NCAAs as a program but haven't reached the Super Regional in 11 years. For senior pitcher Nicki Blue advancing past a tough opening Regional will come down to one thing a team must have.
"I think it all goes back to trust. If I'm not on the mound I trust whichever pitcher is out that there that she's going to do her job which is going to be our team in the best position to win. Whether I'm given the ball or not I think our entire team just really trusts whoever is on the mound to get the job done and keep us in the game."
USC plays St. Francis at 7 pm ET in Tucson, Az this Friday.
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