The 2020-21 Arizona women’s basketball team joined rare company Friday by advancing to the national title game.
For all the individual and team success Arizona has produced in the 21st century, the school’s athletic programs have only competed in a national title event a handful of times over the last two decades.
Here is a look back at some of Arizona’s recent performances playing on the biggest stage in college sports.
Women’s Golf — 2018
The most recent national championship meeting featuring an Arizona program was the 2018 NCAA Women’s Golf Championships.
The Wildcats nearly missed the cut for quarterfinals, but Bianca Pagdanganan delivered an all-time clutch eagle shot in the 18th hole of team play that set up a playoff with Baylor for the No. 8 seed. Yu-Sang Hou rolled in a birdie to clinch Arizona’s spot in match play.
The next day, Arizona stunned its Pac-12 rivals Stanford and UCLA in the quarterfinals and semifinals to earn a place in the title match against Alabama.
In the championship, the Wildcats and Crimson Tide were tied 2-2 all with one point on the board, which fittingly went to a playoff. There, Haley Moore sunk a birdie to win Arizona the national title.
“It means so much,” Moore told the Golf Channel afterward. “It is actually like a dream. I never would have thought that it would be like this. I’m just so happy right now and for my team, and I did this for them.”
Baseball — 2012 and 2016
The Arizona baseball program has made the College World Series Finals twice in the past decade – winning it all in 2012 against heavy favorite South Carolina and falling in 2016 to upstart Coastal Carolina.
The 2012 team put together one of the most impressive runs in college baseball postseason history, going 10-0 in the Regionals, Super Regionals and the CWS
The Wildcats entered the CWS Finals best-of-three series as underdogs to two-time defending champions South Carolina. Arizona flipped the script on the Gamecocks in Game 1 behind a complete game outing from starter Konner Wade and timely hitting, leading to 5-1 victory.
In the title-clinching Game 2, Arizona received 7.2 stellar innings from James Farris, who allowed just one run. With the game tied 1-1 entering the top of the ninth, Arizona struck for a three-run rally.
Matthew Troupe closed the game in the bottom of the ninth, and Arizona won its first national title since 1986. Head coach Andy Lopez became one of only two coaches to lead two programs to a national title in baseball.
Four years later, Arizona was in its first season under present head coach Jay Johnson when the Wildcats went on another run to the CWS Finals.
To get there, Arizona won the Lafayette Regional, shocked Mississippi State in Starkville to win the Super Regional and staved off three elimination games in the CWS to face Coastal Carolina in the Finals.
Arizona beat CCU 3-0 in Game 1 but then lost a pair of consecutive heartbreakers to fall two games to one in the series and give the Chanticleers an improbable championship.
Softball — 2010
Yes, it’s really been 11 years since Arizona softball last played for a national championship.
The 2010 team, led by pitcher Kenzie Fowler, left fielder Brittany Lastrapes and catcher Stacie Chambers, had a losing record in Pac-12 play but got hot at the right time.
The Wildcats mostly breezed through Regionals and Super Regionals. Their Women’s College World Series ticket was punched with a 10-2 BYU Super Regionals win at Hillenbrand,
In Oklahoma City, Arizona were clobbered 9-0 to Tennessee in the opening game, sending the group to the loser’s bracket. There, they pulled off a remarkable four consecutive wins, including two 8-0 and 5-2 victories over the Volunteers to send the team to the WCWS Finals.
The Wildcats faced arch-nemesis UCLA in the best-of-three Finals and appeared to have Game 1 in reach when calamity struck.
In the top of the seventh inning, Chambers hit a go-ahead homer to give Arizona a 5-4 lead. Fowler retired the first two batters in the bottom of the inning, induced a standard fly ball that should have ended the game.
However, Lastrapes and center fielder Lauren Schutzler both went after the ball, collided, and let it fall, leading to a UCLA double. After an intentional walk, UCLA’s next batter hit a double over the outstretched glove of Arizona right fielder Karissa Buchanan, tying the game at 5-5 and sending it to extras.
UCLA won in the 8th on a walk-off homer. To this day, it’s one of the most painful losses in program history.
The following night Arizona fell to UCLA 15-9 in a slugfest, giving the Bruins the title.
Men’s and women’s swimming and diving
Though swimming and diving don’t compete for national titles in match contests, we would be remiss not to include the 2008 season that saw both the men’s and women’s teams win their first NCAA championships.
The men finished an impressive 94 points ahead of second place Texas in their competition, but the women did even better, topping runner-up Auburn by 136 points.
Head coach Frank Busch led both programs to their respective titles, marking one of the greatest coaching runs in Arizona history, right alongside Lute Olson in 1997.
If Adia Barnes can lead Arizona women’s hoops to a national championship Sunday night, she will join that elite company, while her players will permanently etch their names in Wildcats lore.