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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 17 2012

NCAA trips familiar for NDSU softball trio

FARGO – It may not be in any record book, but North Dakota State softball players Brea Konz, Taylor Mortensen and Randi Parks tied an NCAA record: most appearances in an NCAA tournament.

Of course, the most times any player can appear is four. But it’s an accomplishment nonetheless, especially for a school that just several years ago made the Division I move.

At the time, head coach Darren Mueller visualized what it would be like.

“I thought, ‘It would be kind of cool if we get to a regional one year and see what it’s all about,’ ” he said. “Now it starts to become habit, but you don’t want to treat it that way because then you start looking past it.”

The Bison have reached the tournament every year they’ve been eligible. They won the Summit League tournament automatic berth again last weekend, the fourth time Konz, Mortensen and Parks have experienced it.

It doesn’t get old.

NDSU now has 14 players who have played in four straight NCAA tourneys. Eleven played in Division II tourneys from 1998-2004, with Jenny Bakke and Lindsey Graham the last to do it from 2001-04.

“You don’t want to be the team that ends the tradition or the streak,” Mortensen said. “Four in a row. You can’t ask for more.”

NDSU plays the No. 13 overall seed University of Arizona at 7 p.m. CST today. The Tucson Regional has Hawaii and Notre Dame playing at 4:30.

It’s the fourth straight year NDSU will play a Pac-12 Conference team in the opener. Two of those were No. 1 overall seeds, so the Bison get a bit of a relief. Maybe.

“They’re all tough,” Mueller said.

The Wildcats have won eight national championships. The tourney will be aired nationally on ESPNU and ESPN3.

“You have to go out and play fearless,” Mortensen said. “All the teams in this tournament are good, so hopefully we’ll go out and play fearless and have fun.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

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