Dressed in street clothes, Dejah Mulipola was greeted with a standing ovation Wednesday when the Arizona Wildcats opened the fall season at Hillenbrand Stadium.
After the game, a group of young girls chanted her name, and a few players from Chandler-Gilbert Community College approached her for a picture.
So it goes when you are an Olympian. Sunday, Mulipola was named to the U.S. 2020 Olympic roster, one of just three college players to make the 15-player team after four days of tryouts in Oklahoma City last week.
Mulipola is coming off a junior season in which she was the Johnny Bench and NFCA Catcher of the Year after launching a career-high 23 homers while providing stellar defense behind the dish.
“Stud, I knew it,” said UA center fielder Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, who tried out but did not make the cut. “She’s all-around a great player, great teammate, so it was no surprise and I cannot be happier for her.”
With the honor, Mulipola becomes Arizona softball’s 10th Olympian. Former UA teammates Danielle O’Toole and Taylor McQuillin will be representing Team Mexico in Tokyo.
“The Olympic Games are like none other,” said UA coach Mike Candrea, who has won gold and silver medals as Team USA’s Head coach. “I mean, I can’t even describe it. But just putting on a uniform, being in the Olympic Village, with all the great athletes around the world, it’s just an experience that you’ll never forget for a lifetime, no matter what.
“And if you’re fortunate enough to bring home a medal then it’s something that you will take with you forever in life no matter what color it is. And it’s like a national championship here. You win a national championship and it automatically makes that team feel very close for the rest of their life. And so it’s a very unique experience, but a very, very fun one and very nice one for a kid to be able to go through especially when they’re still in college.”
Mulipola will sit out Arizona’s 2020 season since Team USA begins touring in January in preparation for the Olympics.
We caught up with Mulipola on Wednesday, and here is what she had to say about making her Olympic dream come true. The full transcript is below.
Arizona catcher Dejah Mulipola talks about the moment she found out she made the U.S. Olympic team and what it means to herPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Wednesday, October 9, 2019
What was going through your mind when you got the news?
“I was rooming with Alyssa (Palomino-Cardoza) at the tryout, so I set my alarm 10 minutes before I got the email, and I had butterflies going through my stomach. I felt like I wanted to throw up. We were in separate rooms at the time because we wanted to share the news separately. But when I found out that I had made the roster I called my dad and we shared that moment together. It was pretty special.”
How long have you been waiting for a moment like that?
“Um, I guess all my life. It’s everyone’s dream to go to the Olympics, everyone’s dream to just get to college. So I’m kind of going with the flow right now. And all of these experiences that I’m going through is just God’s plan for my life.”
Did you expect to make it?
“I wouldn’t say I expected it just because you never know. You could have the best tryout of your life and not make it, but I was comfortable with the girls there, and I knew I had to grind and work a little harder because I was one of the younger girls at the tryout. So I would just say that I was giving 100 percent every single day, and I just got lucky to be on the roster.”
What are you most looking forward to?
“Just every experience. I don’t know what it’s like to be an Olympian. And I just gotta soak it up like a sponge. I want to play for Coach (Candrea) and Caitlin (Lowe), who we want to get a gold medal for. So just learning and enjoying the moment.”
What advice have you given the catchers that will be replacing you?
“Everyone’s here for a reason. So I know that the catcher’s here will do great. And we have a great junior class, who is now a senior class. So they’re in good hands right now.”
What’s on your to-do list from now until January?
“I’m staying here, finishing classes out in the fall, just preparing and getting ready for January.”
How involved with the team are you going to be?
“I still come to practices and workouts and jump in whenever I can, and just do reps on my own.”
Who have you reached out to for advice?
“Definitely just talking to Coach and Cait (Lowe) because they’ve been there, done that. They have a lot of great wisdom to share, so just getting that information from them because I know they’re in my corner.”
Candrea’s advice: “There’s not much advice you can give kids other than to be themselves. Sometimes you put on that uniform and you try to do too much. It’s a different game, it’s very challenging. You’re facing the best pitchers in the world. It’s more of a mental game, trying to put together a good at-bat when you can.”