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Arizona softball: Wildcats approach each opponent with ‘Sally mentality’

Arizona doesn’t play GCU on Wednesday, it plays Sally

Photo via @UA_Softball on Twitter

No matter who the Arizona softball team plays, whether it’s the Drake Bulldogs or a top-10 Washington Huskies squad, every team is the same to them.

“They’re just Sally,” said UA utility player Tamara Statman. “Each girl is Sally. We don’t care about the name that would be on their back. Every girl is Sally.”

Sally is a generic name the team labels every opponent it faces, an approach it picked up from Ken Ravizza, a renowned sports psychologist who has worked with several collegiate and professional teams, including the Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs, and Tampa Bay Rays.

Ravizza spoke to the Wildcats at their team hotel during a road trip in Long Beach, delivering what UA pitcher Taylor McQuillin characterized as an “amazing speech.”

“What he had us take away from that meeting is approach every team like they’re somebody, but at the same time approach them all the same,” said UA shortstop Mo Mercado.

Mercado said the “Sally mentality” helps the Wildcats stay “flatline” and not underestimate a weak opponent or overestimate a strong opponent.

“So even if we’re playing a low-ranked team or a high-ranked team, label them all as just Sally,” she said.

Labeling every opponent as Sally can easier said than done at times, though, especially in Pac-12 play when the familiarity between the teams is so great.

For instance, McQuillin said she knew seven to eight players on the Oregon State team the Wildcats faced to open Pac-12 play.

“Obviously you’re going to play teams and you know people on teams, you’ve played with them in travel ball, you’ve seen them around for years. There’s always those couple girls on the team,” she said.

“But overall that mentality is when you’re a hitter, now you’re a Sally.”

Has McQuillin bought into it?

“Now I do,” she said after tossing a shutout against No. 6 Washington.

The “Sallies” haven’t had much success against Arizona.

The Wildcats have won eight games in a row since Ravizza’s lecture, with four of them being against top-10 teams (three against No. 6 Washington and one against No. 9 Oklahoma).

This past weekend, Arizona made UW — a team with the No. 1 RPI in the nation — look pedestrian, outscoring them 20-2 in a three-game sweep.

“Overall I think the whole Sally mentality is what we gotta maintain,” McQuillin said.

And that’s because Arizona, which sits at 32-1 this season, possesses as much — if not more — talent as anybody it will face this season. The key is unleashing that talent on a consistent basis.

Mike Candrea says the “Sally mentality” helps them do just that.

“It’s one of our little secrets to try to keep the game simple,” he said. “I think that’s the one thing that we’ve tried to do is [say] today’s just another great day, we’re playing another team named Sally and go out there and play the game. Not worry about everything.

“Some things you can’t control that you worry about and right now I think for them, they’re in a good mindset. They’re going out and playing the game.”

Coming off the sweep of Washington, the Wildcats return to action Wednesday when they will host a doubleheader against the GCU Antelopes.

The Antelopes are 25-9 this season, making them one of the better non-conference teams UA will face this season.

Not that it matters.

“[We’re] going out there to play Sally,” UA center fielder Alyssa Palomino said. “That’s who [we’re] playing.”

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire