By Scottie Bricker
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 20, 1998

Wildcat softball team to face former coach

When the top-ranked Arizona softball team takes the field in the University of Florida Louisville Slugger Invitational tomorrow, a former comrade will lead his current troops into battle in the hopes of upending his former mates.

Florida head coach Larry Ray, who spent 10 years as a Wildcat assistant coach beginning in 1986, looks forward to the challenge of playing Arizona, despite his program being in only its second full year of NCAA competition.

"It's always a fun, emotional time when you play your former team," Ray said. "We just want our girls to play with emotion and have a good time, but not get too excited."

Ray left Arizona after the 1995 season to start the program at Florida.

After using the 1995-96 season to recruit and fill their roster, the Gators began competition last season. They finished 42-25, including a 10-0 loss to the Wildcats in last year's Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucson.

The Wildcats open the Florida tournament today with a pair of games against Southwest Texas State. After tomorrow's two contests versus Florida, Arizona finishes the weekend with a doubleheader against Texas Tech, Sunday.

All three doubleheaders begin at 9 a.m. Tucson time.

Ray said tomorrow's game is important to help the Gators, who are 4-1 in the young season, contrast themselves against one of the most successful teams this decade.

"We are going to use these games as a barometer to find out just how good we are," Ray said. "Arizona has long set the standard for fast-pitch softball and we want to go against the best."

Speaking of the best, Ray is regarded as one of the best teachers of the short game in college softball, including slap hitting and running the base paths.

"Everything I learned in my (hitting) career I learned from him while he was here," said Arizona assistant Amy Chellevold, who hit .415 as a leadoff hitter from 1991-95. "He is a great teacher of the short game and they (the Gators) use a lot of the same things we use here."

Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said he is excited to go against Ray and see what he has done with the Florida program.

"Any assistant you send out on the road takes with them some of the things we run here," Candrea said. "It'll be good to see him again and let our two teams compete."

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