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Wednesday January 17, 2001

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Wall of Champions

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By Brett Erickson

Arizona Daily Wildcat

New attraction to Hillenbrand honors past title teams, All-

Opponents of the UA softball team understood the winning tradition they were up against when they took the field at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.

Now, the realization will set in well before the first pitch.

A new UA Wall of Fame honoring the storied program was unveiled in the front concourse of Hillenbrand Stadium during a ceremony attended by about 60 people last night. Head softball coach Mike Candrea and UA President Peter Likins were among the attendees.

Candrea said the Wall of Fame, which honors the team's five national championships, 28 All Americans, and three Player of the Year recipients, is a good way to show current and future players the tradition of Arizona softball.

"I think it's a bridge for us - a bridge from the past to the present," he said.

And while many attending the dedication were quick to praise Candrea for his accomplishments at UA, the head coach quickly passed along a lot of that recognition to his players.

"It's actually the players that are out there every day doing it," he said.

The 15-foot brick wall was built through a donation from the Arizona Builders Alliance, which fronted about $25,000 to complete the project.

Dan Cavanagh, the director of the company, said he was approached by Candrea several years ago and agreed to help out with the project in order to make a statement about the program's excellence.

"I told him, 'For as much as you've done, you deserve it,'" Cavanagh said.

In Candrea's 15 seasons as head coach of the Wildcats, he has amassed an overall record of 806-168. Arizona won five titles in the 1990s ('91, '93, '94, '96 and '97) and led the nation with 576 victories in the past decade.

Last season's trip to the College World Series marked the 13th straight year in which the Wildcats have played in the season's finale. The 1998 team won 67 games and set a NCAA record for wins in a season.

"Mike and his young women have really been quite remarkable," Likins said.

Among the past athletes honored on the Wall of Fame are Arizona's three NCAA Player of the Year winners - pitcher Susie Parra ('94), second baseman Jenny Dalton ('96) and pitcher Nancy Evans ('98).

Leah Braatz, the only Wildcat to be named a four-time All American, is also featured on the wall.

Jonie Moulinet, a supporter of the team who attended last night's dedication, praised Candrea for his success and the respect he commands from players and fans.

"Someday my daughter will be here," Moulinet said of her 12-year-old child, Leeonti. "He's remarkable."

The softball team opens the regular season Feb. 2 at the Louisville Tournament in Tampa, Fla.

Brett Erickson can be reached at