Texas softball to face multiple early season tests

Tori Garcia, General Sports Reporter

After a 10-5 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2022 Women’s College World Series finals, Texas left without a national championship trophy held above their heads.

However, former senior catcher Mary Iakopo, a key factor to her team’s postseason success, was pleased with the Longhorns’ performance and deep run in the postseason.

“I think it was all worth it in the end, to say that we left it all out there and emptied our gas tanks to get where we are,” Iakopo said to The Daily Texan on June 10. “I’m proud.”

In addition, a new expectation has risen for Texas after last year’s unranked team made a historic NCAA Tournament drive. The Longhorns will enter this year’s season ranked No. 14.

In anticipation for the start of a new season following a heartbreaking 2022 season loss, the Longhorns will need to first prepare for some challenging non-conference opponents at the beginning of their schedule. Texas will play seven top 25 ranked opponents: No. 23 Missouri, No. 8 Northwestern, No. 12 Tennessee, No. 17 Kentucky, No. 11 Virginia Tech, No. 24 Louisiana and No. 7 Alabama before reaching Big 12 conference play.

The NFCA Division I Leadoff Classic will kick off Texas’ season with a tough start in Clearwater, Florida from Feb. 10-12, facing five opponents, four of which are ranked.

One of the Longhorn’s biggest non-conference tests this season will come from No. 7 Alabama, who ended the 2022 season with a 44–13 record. The Crimson Tide’s season quickly came to a close after a 6–0 loss to Stanford in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. For the first time in program history, Alabama did not advance to the super regional round of the tournament. Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy mentioned his team would use the loss as fuel for their unfinished business this upcoming season.

“We’re definitely going to use this as motivation for sure,” Murphy said in an interview to Tuscaloosa News. “It’s just a weird feeling, you go to every super regional in history until this one.”

After saying farewell to 2022 seniors Janae Jefferson, Hailey Dolcini, Lauren Burke and Iakopo, the Longhorns have some major shoes to fill with the loss of multiple team leaders.

Although Texas has some challenging non-conference opponents in their upcoming schedule, these obstacles provide the Longhorns opportunities to showcase their revamped roster and to get valuable playing time against quality opponents.