MU softball coach Shonda Stanton liked her team's mindset in winning the C-USA tournament. She may have liked the mindset during the selection show a little better.
When the NCAA rolled out its pairings Sunday night, players looked at Kentucky, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech without fear.
"There was so much excitement in the room. Our players believe we can go in and win it," Stanton said. "You'd think they might think 'we're happy to be here,' but there's none of that. That's one less thing we have to prepare for."
MU (35-20) entered the league tournament in Tulsa, Okla., as the fourth seed with a 13-10 record. It exited as the second Herd team to win a conference championship, joining the 2005 volleyball squad.
The Herd and UK (38-18) play at 7:30 p.m. Friday. All games in the regional are streamed live on ESPN3.
Marshall has played Kentucky before, having lost a 4-3 heartbreaker April 9 in Lexington. The Wildcats scored three in the bottom of the seventh to overcome a Herd lead.
"Andi [Williamson] got hit in the back of the head, and everything went [bad] from there," said Stanton.
Williamson, a native of Harts, is the focal point in the pitcher's circle, going 32-16 with a 2.01 earned-run average. At times the defense has leaked behind her - she has given up 85 earned runs plus 42 unearned.
Alysia Hively, a senior from Clay County, has been a rock at first base, while Huntington product Ashley Gue leads the team in hitting at .344. Gue typically bats second behind fellow outfielder Kaelynn Green, a first-team all-conference selection and one of the Herd's three all-freshman picks.
Marshall had five all-tournament selections: MVP Williamson, Gue, infielders Bri Anna Hope and Jazmine Valle and catcher Katalin Lucas. Those players will need to play even better for the Herd to beat Kentucky.
"They beat 'Bama twice, and some other signature wins," Stanton said of the Wildcats. "They've got a freshman who's a 20-plus game winner [Kelsey Nunley], and that's who we faced in March."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.