Wisconsin Softball: Badgers Return to National Polls for 1st Time Since 2002

Megan McCormick

Winning 27 of your first 31 games sure is good for something -- a return to the USA Today/NFCA Division I softball poll for the first time in more than a decade.

Wisconsin's basketball season is over and spring break has cooled any momentum the football team gathered through the start of spring practice. The lack of a Division I baseball program at UW makes all that even worse, and now we truly don't know how to kill our time. Perhaps the Brewers will continue their flair for the dramatic.

Or perhaps we can turn our attention toward Wisconsin's softball program, which has taken its steady return to prominence under third-year head coach Yvette Healy to an entirely different level. For the first time since 2002, the Badgers (27-4, 5-1 Big Ten) are ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Division I softball poll. Wisconsin is No. 25 in this week's poll and also makes its first appearance in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll (No. 23).

The Badgers' last appearance in the NFCA poll came March 21, 2002, at No. 25. One year earlier, the program rose as high as No. 21 three separate times, its highest-ever standing in the national polls.

Wisconsin won 12 of its first 13 games this season, including 11 straight from Feb. 9 to March 1. A three-game sweep of Illinois opened the Big Ten season on March 22 before the Badgers grabbed two of three at Iowa last weekend. UW will wrap up its 34-game road swing at Minnesota this weekend before returning to Goodman Diamond for two against Northern Iowa on April 10.

The big deal about all of this, aside from the sustained excellence? Wisconsin endured three straight sub-.500 years from 2008-10 under Chandelle Schulte before Healy came on board in 2011. Schulte's five years as head coach also resulted in zero NCAA tournament apperances, Wisconsin's last of which came in 2005 under Karen Gallagher.

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