IDAHO — For the second time in program history, the 30-12 Northwest Nazarene University softball team is heading to the Division II NCAA Championships Tournament.
“It was really exciting to see all our hard work pay off, in the end, to be able to be here at this moment," Ivy Hommel, NNU softball player, said.
After having their season cut short last year, the Nighthawks used it as motivation for this season. Now, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference champs are heading to West Regionals in Irvine, California.
It’s official! @NNUSOFTBALL is headed to the NCAA Championships!— NNU Nighthawks (@NNUSports) May 17, 2021
The Nighthawks are the 3 seed in the West Region, and will open the regional against 6 seed Central Washington in Irvine, CA. pic.twitter.com/6aBH69zL8S
"The way our season ended last year was not something we really enjoyed, and we didn't want that to be the end of our season," Hommel said. "I think we all came out with a lot more fire and passion for the game and for each other because we all went through a lot this past year."
"That hunger after they got it taken away it just came back ten times more when they got back in the fall," Rich Wagner, NNU head softball coach, said.
The Nighthawks will face division foes in sixth-seeded Central Washington University for the first time this year after the regular-season series was canceled.
"We were ready to go. They are one of our rival schools so not being able to play them was a disappointment, but I think it is going to be a great start to our tournament,” Hommel said.
"We are excited because we feel like we have something to prove," Wagner said.
#GNACSB | Three GNAC teams are in the #D2SB West Regional! @NNUSports, @WWUAthletics & @CWUAthletics open play on Wednesday in Irvine, California.— GNAC Sports (@GNACsports) May 17, 2021
It is just the second time that the GNAC has qualified three softball teams for the regional. pic.twitter.com/hyNf7rcs2q
Their game plan heading into the opening round is quite simple: taking it one pitch at a time.
“We don’t focus as much on other teams. We will give them what a pitcher is going to try and do to us and some things like that but we really focus on what we do well and areas we need to work on," Wagner said. "We live by one pitch at a time."
For Idaho native Ivy Hommel, the opportunity to compete on a national stage with her teammates is something she is looking forward to.
"If someone would have told me my senior year of high school that this is where I would be right now, I probably would have said, 'you are crazy,'" she said. "I am really excited to be able to play with this team on a national level and bring a lot of positivity, happiness, and joy to this team and to be able to bring something really special home to Nampa, Idaho."
The Nighthawks play Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. MT, and you can watch it live through the link on their website. Here is the full West Regional schedule:
NCAA DIVISION II WEST REGIONAL
at Eagles Field, Irvine, California
Wednesday, May 19
Game 1: No. 4 Western Washington vs. No. 5 Hawaii Hilo, Noon
Game 2: No. 3 Northwest Nazarene vs. No. 6 Central Washington, 2:30 p.m.
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 (Elimination Game), 5 p.m.
Thursday, May 20
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. No. 1 Concordia Irvine, Noon
Game 5: Winner Game 2 vs. No. 2 Biola, 2:30 p.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 4 vs. Loser Game 5 (Elimination Game), 5 p.m.
Friday, May 21
Game 7: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, Noon
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 6 (Elimination Game), 2:30 p.m.
Game 9: Loser Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8 (Elimination Game), 5 p.m.
Saturday, May 22
Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 9, Noon
Game 11: Winner Game 10 vs. Loser Game 10 (if necessary), 2:30 p.m.