AKRON, Ohio — For Lady Matadors Jamie Gray, Terri Lamoree, Nancy Lucero and Kathy Slaten, there really is no tomorrow.
Today is the last day of their softball lives.
But the four seniors on the Cal State Northridge team can make it a memorable final day. They have an opportunity to play their entire college careers knowing nothing but national championships.
It won't be easy, however. CSUN, the three-time defending Division II national champion, must sweep a doubleheader from Stephen F. Austin today in order for the seniors to accomplish that feat.
"At the beginning of the season, the four of us got together and talked about it," said Gray, the CSUN catcher who gave up a career in rodeo to play softball. "There aren't too many people who can say that they've been there four times."
Said Slaten: "It would be like a dream for any athlete. To be part of a team that's done it four times. Last year as juniors, we wanted to do it for the seniors. Now we want to do it for us."
The four seniors have walked different paths in their CSUN careers.
Slaten is the most renowned. She is a four-time All-American from La Reina High and has been the most dominating pitcher in Division II softball history.
Lamoree has been a steady performer ever since she arrived at CSUN from Granada Hills High. Last season, Lamoree batted .428 in the nationals and was named to the All-Tournament team. In this year's tournament, she is 3 for 7 with a run batted in.
"When I came into Northridge, we were nobodies," Lamoree said. "We went into the national tournament as underdogs. Now, I just expect to come here and win."
Lucero, from Simi Valley High, has been a clutch hitter for the Lady Matadors her entire career. Two years ago, she drove in the winning run against Sam Houston State in the first game of nationals. This season, she singled home the winning run to clinch the Western Regionals and executed a seventh-inning suicide squeeze against Bloomsburg on Saturday that helped get the Lady Matadors into today's championship.
"My freshman year, I didn't know what winning was about," said Lucero. "Now, I can't imagine not being on the championship team."
After spending three years on the bench waiting for All-American Stacy Lim to graduate, Gray, of Bakersfield High, finally got the chance to play this season.
"This tournament is a little different for me because this time I get to catch," Gray said. "It's special because the four of us have a chance to be a part of something most athletes can't believe. We're winners."