By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. -- No. 15 Auburn is headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year and the 14th time in program history as the Tigers secured a spot in the Tallahassee Regional along with host Florida State, Kennesaw State and Jacksonville State.
Though the players -- who watched the selection show together Sunday night -- were hopeful to host a Regional, they are embracing the challenge that's in front of them.
"It's no secret that we've been struggling on the road," senior pitcher Kaylee Carlson said. "So I think now's our time to prove that we can go out there and we can beat any school at any place."
"Now's our time to prove that we can beat any school at any place."
🗣 » @KayleeDenise_16 and the three @AuburnSoftball seniors are ready for the challenge of playing in the Tallahassee Regional. #WarEagle pic.twitter.com/G63QOsNrmd
-- Greg Ostendorf (@greg_ostendorf) May 14, 2018
"I think any time you have an opportunity to play in the postseason, that's not a disappointment," added first-year head coach Mickey Dean. "It gives you an opportunity to play for a national championship, and I think that's what it's all about.
"We knew going into this that you're not going to play in the College World Series or win the College World Series playing in Auburn, Alabama. We knew at some point we were going to have to go on the road. For our fans, we'd love to be able to host a Regional. It didn't work out. Now we get to go on the road and show people what we can do and who we really are."
For Dean, this will be his 11th appearance in an NCAA Regional and his first with the Tigers. He coached James Madison to the Regionals the previous five seasons and helped lead the Dukes to a Super Regional in 2016.
Auburn will open play Friday at 11 a.m. CT against Kennesaw State.
The two sides met once earlier this season with Auburn winning a hard-fought game at home, 2-1. Carlson pitched three scoreless frames in relief to earn her 16th win of the season, and Alyssa Rivera drove in the go-ahead run with a solo home run in the bottom of the 5th inning.
"We just have to go out there and do what we know how to do," Carlson said. "We've already played this team, so we know them. They know a little about us. I think that's going to be an advantage to both teams, so we just have to go out there, fix what we did wrong last time and do it better this time."
Feast your eyes on the Tallahassee match-ups! pic.twitter.com/zBlHKlB3DX
-- NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 14, 2018
The Tigers also have recent history with the host team, Florida State, who they beat in walk-off fashion at the Women's College World Series two years ago to advance to the finals. Though the Seminoles lead the all-time series, 16-10-1, Auburn has won seven of the past 11 meetings.
"We've seen all four teams," senior Courtney Shea said. "Vic (Draper) and I played at Florida State two years ago. We've played Jacksonville State and we played Kennesaw State, so I think we're doing good going forward."
The winner of the Tallahassee Regional will play the winner of the LSU Regional (LSU, Fordham, Houston, Lafayette) in the Super Regionals.
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: