Feb. 1, 2010
NORMAN, Okla. - Hawai'i is a dream vacation spot for many. And after experiencing Oklahoma's winter, the sun and warmth are things most college students long for. Unfortunately, traveling to the Aloha state is not always a simple task. There is a four-hour time difference between Norman and the islands. It is quite the adjustment to make, especially when there is limited time to do so.
Last February, the Sooner softball team took the trip of a lifetime to Honolulu to compete in their 2009 season opener at the Time Warner/Oceanic Cable Rainbow Wahine Paradise Classic. It marked the first and only time a Sooner softball team has competed outside of the continental United States.
The Sooners opened the week with an 8-5 loss to the host school, but bounced back to win the next four games. The Sooners beat UAB (18-0), LSU (8-0), Hawai'i (14-0) and UAB (13-1), respectively. The team ended the trip with a 4-1 record and took home the Paradise Classic title.
"It was really just an amazing experience for all of us," infielder Amber Flores said. "It was very rewarding, a very humbling experience all-around to get that opportunity."
As if out-scoring their opponents 58-9 wasn't enough, Flores was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, while D.J. Mathis nabbed the tournament's Most Valuable Pitcher honor. Joining them on the all-tournament team was pitcher Kristen Allen, catcher Lindsey Vandever, third baseman Dani Dobbs, center fielder Krystle Huey and designated player Katie Norris.
"It was amazing," Norris said. "I had never been to Hawai'i. It was my first college tournament and being able to experience that right off the bat really just set the tone."
When the Sooners were not on the field competing, they had the opportunity to experience the many sights and sounds on the island of Oahu. The team stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, located right next to the famous Waikiki Beach. Prior to starting the tournament, the players, coaches and staff were welcomed to Hawai'i in traditional luau style. Dinner on the beach included an amazing glimpse at a Hawaiian sunset and new foods such as kalua pig and poi.
One memorable stop between practices and games included a visit to the Pearl Harbor site, where the team visited the USS Oklahoma and USS Arizona memorials.
"We wanted to go to Pearl Harbor as a team, and I think it was a very humbling experience for all of us." Flores added. "It was kind of breathtaking to see it all, and it was really something I'll never forget."
At the conclusion of the trip, the team successfully experienced what Hawai'i offered and kicked off their season with a bang.
Breia Brissey is a student assistant in the University of Oklahoma Athletics Communications Office.