Co-head coaches return to alma-mater as Gophers head south

During the Minnesota softball teamâÄôs tournament in Tucson, Ariz., this weekend, coach Lisa Bernstein will preside over her 1,000th game at Minnesota. The Hillenbrand Invitational will not only be special for Bernstein because of that milestone, but the Gophers coach will also return with co-head coach Julie Standering to their alma-mater in the University of Arizona âÄî where they both were a part of the Wildcats first-of-eight national championships in 1991. âÄúThey are pretty elite,âÄù Bernstein said of Arizona. Bernstein came to Minnesota after being a four-year starter at catcher for the Wildcats from 1983-86 âÄî obtaining All-American honorable mention and earning the most valuable player honors twice âÄî and after serving as an assistant coach for five seasons. Standering joined the Minnesota staff following a stellar collegiate career at Arizona. She played in a school-record 277 consecutive games, not missing a single contest during her entire career. In her senior season, Standering was a first-team All-American at shortstop, helping Arizona to its 1991 championship. Both Bernstein and Standering also played for the same coach who is still coaching for Arizona: Mike Candrea âÄî the silver medal winning coach for USA softball at the Beijing Olympics. âÄúIt was a great experience,âÄù Bernstein said of playing for Candrea. âÄúHe was like a second father to me. ItâÄôs going to be neat to go home and see him.âÄù Although the two coaches will be facing their alma-maters, Bernstein said she doesnâÄôt expect that to affect her players. âÄúMost of these kids werenâÄôt even born when I played for [Arizona],âÄù she said. Minnesota has played more games than any Big Ten team this season thus far, and has packed its non-conference schedule with tough competition every weekend. While its 10-11 record may not seem to exude success, Bernstein said the tough schedule has actually given her players confidence. The Gophers went 2-3 at the DeMarini Invitational last weekend, but one of the losses was to No. 5 Stanford. âÄúThey can compete with anyone in the nation,âÄù Bernstein said. âÄúThey were aggressive in their at-bats, they played good defense and found out they can play with anybody.âÄù This weekend, MinnesotaâÄôs first two games are against No. 11 Arizona, and Bernstein said her team is excited for another opportunity against a top-team. âÄúThe last couple of weekends they have had over 6,000 people in their stands, so itâÄôs going to be a big deal,âÄù she said.