The No. 2 Michigan softball team has officially arrived at the most rigorous part of its journey in hoping to reach the Women’s College World Series for the 10th time in program history.

“The most exciting thing we do is play in the NCAA tourney,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said to her team after the announcement Sunday night. “Nobody’s ranking matters. Now we play. The team that plays the best wins.”

The Wolverines were announced as the No. 10 overall seed during Sunday night’s NCAA Selection Show, set to host the Ann Arbor Regional at Alumni Field this weekend.

“I predicted somewhere between seven and 11,” Hutchins said. “And I don’t care — I don’t. The ranking doesn’t matter, we’ve seen that the last three years (when) we’ve been ranked in the top eight.”

The Wolverines (18-2 Big Ten, 51-4 overall) will welcome three familiar teams to Ann Arbor, as the double-elimination playoff series begins Friday. Kentucky and Notre Dame will be the first to take the field, followed by Michigan – matched up against in-state rival Western Michigan.

The Wolverines have already met the Fighting Irish (March 19) and Broncos (April 12) this season, taking the games 9-4 and 6-1, respectively. But a lot has happened since then, and Hutchins looks to make sure Michigan stays consistent.

“We just have to continue what we’ve been doing, we don’t have to do anything different,” Hutchins said. “You always look at the bracket, see who you’re with and who you’re paired up against. It’s really difficult to get to the World Series because the top 16 is brutal.”

She added: “I think it’s a tough regional, period.”

Even as the final highlight reel was playing on the big screen, the Michigan coaching staff was already collecting statistics on this weekend’s opponents.

Kentucky (14-9 SEC, 36-14) heads to Ann Arbor after a tough loss to Tennessee, the eventual conference champion, in the quarterfinals of the SEC championship. But the Wildcats have several big wins on their résumé, including a midseason sweep of No. 3 Florida in April.

Notre Dame has been a constant postseason opponent for the Wolverines, as Michigan has been matched up against the Fighting Irish the past four seasons. Notre Dame (19-1 Big East, 45-9) dropped games to both Michigan and Western Michigan this season, but went on a 14-game tear in its last 15 games of the season.

And the Wolverines’ first opponent – the Broncos – earned an at-large bid after winning the 2011 MAC Tournament title for the first time since 2003. Western Michigan (14-6 MAC, 25-28) claimed both the MAC regular-season and tournament titles in the same season for the first time in program history.

This is the 10th consecutive season that Michigan has hosted the NCAA Regionals in Ann Arbor, meaning the fourth straight home series for this year’s senior class.

“We’ve been blessed to be able to host for four straight years,” senior first baseman Dorian Shaw said. “We’ve got a great facility, and I honestly think that when other teams come in and play at Michigan they’re lucky to get to play at our field, because our field is so nice and our stands are always full.”

Hutchins added: “(The crowd) sure makes me fired up. I hope that it’s to our advantage — it certainly could be. But they’re not going to pitch for us and they’re not going to hit for us, so we’ve got to give them something to cheer about.”

Just two other Big Ten teams, Indiana and Penn State, join the Wolverines in the tournament’s 64-team pool.

Michigan is the only team in its conference to hold a NCAA Championship title.

“I did my homework — I’m disappointed in it, but that reflects our seeding,” Hutchins said of the lack of Big Ten teams. “Our schedule this year was lighter at the front end, more than I cared for it to be, so that’s the way it is. But we did what we could do, we won the games that we were supposed to win, so I think we’re in good shape.”

The Wolverines will be gearing up for postseason play this week as the tournament starts Friday night. Kentucky and Notre Dame will kick off the evening at 5:30 p.m. followed by Michigan and the Broncos at 8:00 p.m. Both games will be aired on ESPN.

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