Arizona gearing up for a busy Valentine's Day weekend in Tucson
It might be the busiest day of the year for Arizona Athletics. Valentine's Day is going to be a jam-packed one for the Wildcats with several teams in action all over campus including the women's basketball team, softball, baseball and beach volleyball in addition to the track and field teams that will be in action in both Washington and Texas.
Here's a rundown of some of the most important events on campus this weekend.
No. 12 Arizona set to host Washington schools
Adia Barnes' women's basketball team was able to earn one of the biggest wins in program history last week when it knocked off No. 9 Oregon State on the road. It marked the first road victory against a top-10 opponent for the Wildcats and it kept UA from being swept allowing the team to remain at No. 12. on the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Now the Wildcats (19-4, 8-4 Pac-12) will turn their attention to the Washington schools as they make a return to McKale Center this weekend. First up will be the Huskies (11-12, 3-9) Friday night at 7 p.m. MST.
UW is currently struggling to have a successful season, and one of Arizona's 19 wins this season came against the Huskies. UA had to come back from a 19-point deficit in that game but the end result was a 66-58 victory for the Wildcats in Seattle.
The Washington road trip was a successful one for Arizona and it remains the only trip UA has been able to sweep this season. Now it will try to do the same at home, but Barnes and her team are not willing to give in to UW's struggles this year.
"For us, our main thing is one game at a time," Barnes said this week. "I'm not even talking about Sunday, we're not even thinking about Washington State. We are focused right now on Washington and how we beat them on Friday.
"We know they're a good team. We know that we should win at home, but we also know that at Washington we were down by 19. We got lucky and found a way to win. So, it's not a game we can look over by any means."
Wildcats big matchup with Oklahoma looms as Hillenbrand Invitational gets underway
No. 4 Arizona has a big weekend ahead as it hosts several teams as part of the Hillenbrand Invitational. Among the teams on the schedule will be No. 2 Oklahoma as UA will face its toughest test of the season Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. MST. It will matchup two of the top teams in the country, but that will only be part of the story.
UA starting pitcher Mariah Lopez was part of the Sooners' roster last season and had a 51-2 career record while at Oklahoma. She's finishing her career at Arizona and is likely to be in the circle Saturday afternoon to face her former team. In addition to that, UA will likely see former ASU standout pitcher G Juarez who is now at Oklahoma.
It is a big matchup that Arizona is working to keep in perspective considering it is just one of five games the Wildcats will play this weekend.
"We try to not make it any more than what it is," head coach Mike Candrea said this week. "You know, it's another game and we're gonna put our best foot forward."
Friday: UA vs Long Beach State (2 p.m. MST); UA vs Northern Iowa (4:30 p.m. MST)
Saturday: UA vs Bryant (11:30 a.m. MST); UA vs No. 2 Oklahoma (4:30 p.m. MST)
Sunday: UA vs Long Beach State (12:30 p.m. MST)
Jay Johnson's crew begins its quest for Omaha
Arizona baseball is eager to get back to the postseason, a place it has not been the last two years. The Wildcats had a superb finish to the 2019 season losing just one game in the month of May. However, it proved to be too little, too late as Jay Johnson's team failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament despite its late run.
It left a bitter taste for Arizona and the motivation has carried over into the new season that begins Friday night against Albany. UA has a different buzz this year as it heads into the new year ranked and picked to finish among the top teams in the Pac-12 Conference.
The Wildcats still possess one of the best offenses in college baseball, but pitching remains the biggest unknown heading into the new season. The Wildcats retooled their coaching staff this offseason bringing in star pitching coach Nate Yeskie from Oregon State.
UA hopes to see immediate results with the new staff addition and he has some interesting pieces to work with including left-handed pitcher Garrett Irvin who will get the start Friday night. The junior college transfer from Riverside Community College in California posted a 10-2 record with a 2.25 ERA in the 2019 season and the Wildcats are hopeful he can continue to have success in Tucson.
No matter how it gets done, the Wildcats simply want to get back to postseason play and that process begins Friday night.
"I haven't said anything relative to 2019 or missing the postseason," Johnson said this week. "We're all there, we're in the room. There's pain that was associated with that, but do you make that a thing or do you just go to work?
"I think they've made a good choice to go to work as our coaching staff and put a focus on what adjustments need to be made. I think we've done a really good job with that, and I think over time you will see that. ... I want to win the National Championship. I want to win every game that we play. When we step on the field, my anticipation is to win that contest and we'll be prepared to do that."
Friday: UA vs Albany at Hi Corbett Field (6 p.m. MST)
Saturday: UA vs Albany at Hi Corbett Field (6 p.m. MST)
Sunday: UA vs Albany at Hi Corbett Field (1 p.m. MST)