High expectations for Arizona softball with return of Dejah Mulipola, rest of senior class
If the 2020 season were still going on, Arizona catcher Dejah Mulipola would have been in San Jose, Calif., playing for Team USA and finishing out the “Stand Beside Her Tour” before heading off to play in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan this summer.
Mulipola won’t be living out one of her childhood dreams this summer, but she still has the chance to accomplish something she once thought impossible: finishing out her final collegiate season with her senior class.
“It was a little ‘bitter sweet’ being on the Olympic tour and living out that dream but also kinda being sad that I wasn’t with my class back at Arizona,” Mulipola said. “To hear that I got to do both in the end is super exciting for me, and I’m just pumped that it happened that way.”
Head coach Mike Candrea remembers preparing for the conference opener against Oregon State University when he received the news that the rest of the season was going to be canceled. His thoughts immediately went out to his cornerstone senior class.
“My energy and my thoughts were ‘we cannot let this senior class end this way,’” Candrea said. “So I made some phone calls around the country with people that I know and just tried to get some support. I felt it was only the right thing to do to let these players finish off their careers the right way.”
Mulipola will be returning to the University of Arizona in 2021 following the postponement of the Olympics. Her return is a significant boost to a roster that is already loaded with talent after the Wildcats announced their full return of the 2020 senior class, meaning Arizona is in for another year of high expectations.
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“Our expectations are always high," Candrea said. “This senior class is a very unique class because they bring a lot of talent. They’ve been our core for many years. When you walk into a season and you have that core already established, I think it’s going to be a great experience for our freshmen coming in and to be able to learn from this group.”
Arizona’s freshman class consists of eight players, all of whom rank in the top-100 and make up the Wildcats’ No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country. What once was a roster of almost 30 players has now whittled down to 23 after Ivy Davis, Marissa Schuld, Vanessa Foreman, Carli Campbell and Jenna Kean announced their plans to transfer following the 2020 season.
“I knew that when he had the opportunity to bring our seniors back ... and combine that with bringing in eight freshman, I knew that it would definitely make some people take a look at their future and their playing time,” Candrea said.
“Every kid comes here because they want to play,” Candrea added. “We had some very honest and open conversations with kids about their future and about their playing time and I really felt like, for many of them, it was the time for them to maybe look at other options if that was on the table for them.”
Arizona now has a roster in which half of its team consists of freshmen and seniors, an interesting dynamic that Candrea sees as a positive one.
“My expectations for the senior class, foremost, is to help us bring the freshman class along,” he said. “I think they’re going to be good leaders and they’re going to show kids how to do things in the right way and I think that’s valuable.”
Mulipola is also excited to contribute to the development of the freshman by implementing what she learned when she was a freshman.
“When my class came in as freshman, we had a superior class with Katiyana Mauga, Mo Mercado and [Danielle] O’Toole, and people like that to show us the ropes of what Arizona softball is like and the tradition that they carried was,” Mulipola said. “I’m excited for my class to be in that position and welcome a freshman class of awesome girls who are going to come in and build that role. Just continuing the Arizona softball tradition.”
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