May 11, 2014
Auburn players tuned in to the NCAA announcement show after their team banquet
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Branndi Melero and her softball teammates watched the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night and were officially told what they were heard from their coach all along.
Auburn is a NCAA Tournament team under new coach Clint Myers.
"Coaches always told us we're here to win championships. We're going to go," Melero said. "Coach's big thing: Our destiny. Our destiny, obviously, came out our way."
The Tigers learned their destination when ESPNU told them they were assigned to the Minneapolis Regional to open tournament play against North Dakota State at 4 p.m. Friday. Host Minnesota will play Wisconsin-Green Bay at 6 in the double-elimination tournament.
It was more celebration for Auburn, which has a turnaround 39-17-1 record, is returning to NCAA tourney play after a one-year hiatus and watched the selection show just minutes after the team banquet in which Melero was named the MVP.
Auburn had the best RPI in the last rankings among the teams in Minneapolis. The Tigers were 15th, Minnesota was 17th, North Dakota State was 51st and Green Bay was 120th.
Auburn's 39 wins are second in the regional to Minnesota, which is 41-9. North Dakota State is 35-16 and Green Bay is 27-12.
Myers has won nine national championships in college softball and baseball, so he knows his way around tournaments. He's happy enough to be in the tournament, though it didn't escape him that the winner of the Minneapolis Regional is paired with the Eugene Regional, where No. 1-overall seed Oregon will play.
Auburn should be well tested for tournament play. Eleven SEC teams are in the tournament.
Count Auburn in.
"Postseason is about playing the best teams," Myers said. "I don’t know much about Green Bay, but the other two I know they’re good programs. We have to go out there and play good softball with the opportunity to go play Oregon in Eugene. It’s postseason. Whoever lines up with you, you have to play.
"We’re going to have to play Auburn softball if we’re going to have any kind of chance."
Auburn did that for most of the season.
"We’re very proud of what this team has been able to accomplish," Myers said.
"We can play with anybody when we do the things we're capable of. We're not going to make excuses."
Myers said he's not surprised 11 SEC teams made the NCAAs because "it could easily have been 12. The SEC is such a strong conference.
"It just shows the caliber of teams that play each and every week."
Here are the winners announced at the team banquet…
MVP – Branndi Melero
Most Inspirational (Best Teammate) – Morgan Estell
Hardest Worker – Tiffany Howard
Newcomer of the Year – Kasey Cooper
Most Improved Players – Lexi Davis, Jade Rhodes, Sydne Waldrop
Clutch Performer of the Year – Branndi Melero
Defensive Player of the Year – Emily Carosone
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine