Editor's note: This version correctly states that MAC tournament play begins Wednesday.
When it appeared University of Toledo might qualify for the Mid-American Conference softball tournament, congratulatory emails and phone calls started trickling in to coach Tarrah Beyster.
When it became official, and the Rockets snapped a 14-year dry spell, the volume of communication intensified. Beyster figures as many as 40 alumni of the program have sought her out to express their appreciation for guiding the team to the postseason for the first time since 1997.
Play begins Wednesday, with eighth-seed UT squaring off against fifth-seed Western Michigan at 11 a.m. in Akron's Firestone Stadium.
Under third-year coach Beyster, UT (18-36, 8-14) has won more games this season than the 16 it won in the three previous seasons combined.
Right fielder Lindsey Tobias of Defiance is hitting .348 with 42 RBIs and 17 stolen bases, all team highs.
Brooke Gates, a Southview graduate, is batting .323.
"This is the first step of many in building the program back to where it needs to be," she said. "The administration's excited, the alumni is excited, and the players have worked really hard."
Paramount to UT securing a tournament berth was a 3-1 record at home against Western Michigan and Northern Illinois on the final weekend of April. That mark essentially sealed the deal, rendering a winless final weekend meaningless to UT snatching the eighth and final spot.
UT split two games with WMU at home April 27, taking the first 2-1 before falling 11-3. The winner of today's matchup will play No. 4 Ohio at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
"Our plan is not just to say we went to the tournament and be satisfied with that," Beyster said. "We want to go there and definitely put on a showing."
NOBLE SIGNS: Former Rockets tight end Danny Noble signed a rookie free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend after a successful tryout with the team.
He will reunite with offensive tackle Mike VanDerMeulen who signed with Tampa Bay after he went unselected in last month's NFL draft. Noble's senior season ended prematurely after he suffered a broken leg.
SELFRIDGE HONORED: Freshman golfer Chris Selfridge collected MAC freshman of the fear honors Sunday and finished in third place at the league tournament. He also earned a spot on the all-tournament team as well as second-team All-MAC laurels.
Selfridge, who concluded the season with three straight top 10 finishes, was at one-under par 215 (73-71-71) following 54 holes. The final round was truncated because of darkness after rain and lightning delayed the start of the round.
Kent State's Corey Conners captured medalist honors at seven-under 209 (70-67-72) with teammate Kevin Miller finishing second at five-under 211 (70-69-72).
NIESE VALEDVICTORIAN: Former women's soccer player Alyssa Niese was honored as the valedictorian in the College of Business & Innovation at last weekend's graduation ceremonies. An operations management major with a minor in event planning and tourism, Niese posted a 4.0 grade-point average. She started 49 matches in her career at UT.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.
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