Natasha Watley's winning moment

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Natasha Watley presented President George Bush with a UCLA jersey when the team was invited to the White House following its 2003 NCAA title.

When I first saw Natasha Watley play she was 15 or 16 years old, and I remember thinking, Wow! I didn't know high school players were supposed to be this good! At the time, our club team wanted Tasha to join, and they kept talking about this shortstop who was really good. I didn't know who she was, but we played her club team that weekend, and she was everywhere. She was hitting triples, she was making great defensive plays. I had never seen someone play like that before. And she was younger than me.

When you played against her, you knew she was going to be incredibly fast, and you had to respect her and play her deep because you knew she could hit the ball over your head.

I remember in 2003 when UCLA won it all. It was Natasha's senior year, and it was going to be the first class of seniors who hadn't won a national championship during their four years. They thought they were done, but then they came back from the losing bracket and upset (three-time Collegiate Player of the Year) Cat Osterman and the University of Texas twice.

Natasha had this moment in the second game against Texas where she scored the winning run at home. It was a huge rally for UCLA in the seventh inning, and Tasha made an incredible slide to score. In a rare moment for her, she screamed out, so joyfully and emotionally. She's the type of player who doesn't play with any emotion, so in that moment you could tell it was her moment. I'll always remember it.

UCLA went on to win the national championship behind her. Watching her play for UCLA was a really beautiful thing, because you knew she was only getting better, and hadn't even reached her full potential yet. That was the scariest part!

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