Sooners still can't believe they're the national champs

Tuesday, May 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- One day after the University of Oklahoma softball team won the national championship, it was still hard for
coach Patty Gasso to realize what her team had done.

"I'm still completely overwhelmed with everything," Gasso said.

But she will have time to soak up her team's accomplishments while sitting under the Mexican sun during an upcoming vacation.

The Sooners finished the year with the most victories in the NCAA, they had two players honored as All-Americans and beat a UCLA
program, which some regard as the best in the nation, in the title game.

Since the 3-1 victory Monday, Gasso has been flooded with congratulatory phone calls, e-mails and letters.

She said she didn't realize how much the victory meant to the state, the fans and to the university until after the game.

"The support and the e-mail and the letters and the call's are just overflowing," she said. "I guess you don't realize what impact it has on everyone."

But it was a big impact as evident by the record-breaking crowd at Don E. Porter Hall of Fame Stadium. More than 8,000 fans watched
the Sooners beat UCLA.

In that crowd were several of OU's coaches and players from other sports, athletic director Joe Castiglione said.

"It's just another example of everyone pulling together," he said. "They celebrate success together."

The softball championship capped a good year for Sooner athletics. The football team went to a bowl game, the men's and women's basketball teams went to the NCAA tournament, as did the baseball team.

"When you assemble great people and get them all together in the right direction, great things happen," Castiglione said.

For Gasso and her team, their game against UCLA couldn't have been scripted any better. UCLA is laden with tradition, with seven
national titles and dozens of All-Americans players.

"If you could put it into storybook fashion and write it out in a script," Gasso said, "you would put UCLA in the championship game."

The Sooners did take some cues from a movie script during their tournament run. The team was inspired by the movie "Gladiators,"
Gasso said.

"We attacked each game as if it was our time in the arena," she said.

The future looks bright for the Oklahoma softball program, although Gasso won't go as far as to say there's a softball dynasty forming in Norman.

The entire team, with the exception of pitcher Lana Moran, returns next year. The players coming back, Gasso said, will have a wealth of experience.

And now that the Sooners are national champions, there's a lot to do.

"We're not done yet," Castiglione said. "As you step back and appreciate the enormity of what has been accomplished, you want to
take the appropriate time to celebrate. But people that are competitive begin to think, 'What do we have to do to win another one?"'

Gasso said she'll have about a day to rest once she returns from vacation. Then it's back to business as usual as she sets off on the recruiting trail.

But during those recruiting trips and for one whole year, the Sooners will enjoy being champions.

"We're going to savor these moments for as long as we can," Gasso said.