RSU’s ‘Dream Team’ Receives National Championship Rings

group of girls smiling

Four months after claiming the NCAA Division II softball national championship, the 2021-22 Rogers State University softball team received their championship rings Sept. 22. Held in the ballroom of the Dr. Carolyn Taylor Center, the National Championship Ring Ceremony welcomed back the team in a 5:30 p.m. ceremony that recognized them and honored their historic championship.  

The Hillcats brought home the university’s first national championship with a 6-1 victory over Cal State Dominguez in May 2022, capping off a 58-10 season that also included a MIAA Tournament Championship. 

Welcoming the team and the standing-room-only crowd was RSU Vice President for Development Steve Valencia

“Welcome to what is truly a historic night at Rogers State University,” Valencia said. “Of course, the real history was made on May 31, as this amazing group of ladies and their coaches won the university’s first-ever national championship in athletics.” 

First among the guest speakers for the evening was RSU President Dr. Larry Rice

“This is really a special night on The Hill,” Rice said. “This championship means so much to RSU and it has changed us in very many positive ways. This team put RSU on the map. After May 31, you couldn’t go anywhere wearing anything with an RSU logo without someone wanting to talk to you about the championship. Every news outlet in the region and beyond featured us.  

“Also, this team juggled the demands of a student-athlete in the highest level,” he continued. “On more than one occasion, I reminded people about the collective GPA of this group of ladies – 3.35, and you know if you’re an athlete, you don’t just go to school and get these grades. These are hard grades to get, and it’s not easy being a student-athlete – endless hours on buses, practicing in the field, etc., but they managed to collectively earn a GPA they can be proud of. 

“Finally, this team won with a ‘never give up’ attitude,” he said. “Thank you, Coach Vaughan for an amazing journey. Thank you for our first national championship.”

Following Dr. Rice, Claremore City Manager John Feary addressed the room. 

“First and foremost, congratulations – what an absolutely phenomenal achievement,” Feary said. “We cannot tell you how proud we are of our relationship with this university. You all have just added to that level of pride. On behalf of the mayor, we say again as a community, from the city council, from everybody, congratulations to the RSU women’s softball team.” 

Feary then directed the crowd’s attention to a nearby sign – a replica of four which will be produced by the city and placed alongside the roads leading into Claremore from all directions. He then read an official proclamation of congratulations on behalf of himself, Claremore Mayor Bill Flanagan, and the City of Claremore.

Next to speak was Dr. Chris Ratcliff, vice president for intercollegiate athletics.  

“During this journey, Claremore embraced our softball team, and we’re very proud to be part of this community and for its support,” Ratcliff said. “Recently, I hired a company to look into our softball exposure. The online media exposure reached over 60 million people during our national championship run. The social media exposure reached over 10 million, and this softball team gave this community $1.8 million worth of free advertising. Everyone was talking about our softball team, not just Claremore, but across the state and beyond.” 

Ratcliff then echoed Rice’s sentiments, praising team members for overcoming the challenges of being a student-athlete to excel in their academics and athletics. 

“To win a national championship, you have to be very good, you have to be a little lucky, you have to have a great coaching staff and you have to have great team chemistry. They had all these things and that’s why they were the best team in the country,” he said. “I am super proud of this team and this coaching staff. They do things the right way.” 

The final speaker of the evening was Head Softball Coach Andrea Vaughan, who was frequently moved with emotion during her remarks.

“We’ve all been waiting for this for quite some time now, and it gives me such great pleasure and honor to stand before you tonight,” Vaughan said. 

She thanked numerous people for their support – from the community to the faculty, staff and administration at RSU, her fellow coaches, team members, numerous family members, friends, and other colleagues, before reflecting on the path to victory. 

“In 2016, I took over the program as interim coach, and at the end of that season, I was very blessed to be named head coach – the fourth – here at Rogers State,” she said. “I hit the ground running, and I remember saying to my colleagues ‘Why not Rogers State? Why can’t we win a national championship? We have everything it takes, and we can do it.’ I wrote down our first vision statement for the program, and at the end, it said our goal for Rogers State softball was to win the NCAA Division II World Series and bring home a national championship.” 

Vaughan said that with each season that followed, she and her coaching staff would look at areas they could improve upon to push towards her vision of a national championship, until the 2021-22 season.

“Going into the fall of 2021, I looked at my staff and said, ‘This is the team’,” she said. “I remember opening day of practice telling them, ‘If you want to win a national championship, you have every ingredient to go do it, so let’s go do it.’ I think – I know – they believed it, too.” 

Vaughan then recounted the team’s road to victory, the team’s resilience in the face of difficulties and determination to ultimately win the national championship. 

“They were in this relentless pursuit that nothing was going to stop them,” she said. “We faced a lot of adverse situations in the conference tournament, the regional tournament – some situations that I didn’t know whether we were going to get out of, but they were determined that nothing was going to stop them.

“This was truly the most incredible thing I’ve experienced in my coaching career,” she said. “Again, I just want to thank you for being here tonight, I want to thank this team. They truly were the dream team. I’m hoping we have a second dream team this year, but I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this university, to be a part of this community. The love and the support that we’ve felt from all of you, the celebration, the value that you have given us has been life-changing.” 

Following Vaughan’s remarks, 2021-22 team members were recognized individually, as they were presented with rings commemorating both their national championship win and the MIAA tournament championship win.

In addition to the team finishing the 2021-22 season at the top in Division II, Head Coach Andrea Vaughan and her staff were named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II Coaching Staff of the Year.