Centennial (32-7) won both state tournaments, but Reed (28-7-3) handed the Las Vegas school a loss in each tourney.
The 2013 Nevada Division I State tournament begins Thursday and once again the two schools face off, this time in a first-round tournament date at 6 p.m. in a game to be played at UNLV's Eller Media Field.
"There is a little bit of familiarity since we did play them twice last year but there's still some mystery," Centennial coach Mike Livreri said. "Reed is a good team, a quality team, well-coached. I know they came through the hard way (to win the regional tournament). That obviously tells me something. We played two tight games last year. It will be a good game. "
Livreri alluded to it. The two teams could not have had more dissimilar routes to their regional championships. Centennial rolled through the Sunset Region bracket, winning four games by 10 or more runs. The Bulldogs beat: Spring Valley 13-0, Shadow Ridge 12-2, Arbor View 10-0 and then hammered Palo Verde 13-3 in the regional final.
Conversely, Reed was upset in the first round of the North regional and had to battle back through the losers' bracket to capture its crown, winning six straight loser-out contests in the process, none of which was by more than four runs.
Reed coach Jon Wunder knows what his team is in for.
"The Bulldogs are big, strong and hit the ball well. They also play good defense," the Raiders third-year coach said. "We know we can hang with them but to beat them we're going to have to play good softball in all three areas: hitting, pitching and defense."
Reed will be the team a little out of its element. The Raiders left their east Sparks campus at 8 a.m. Wednesday and made the eight-hour bus ride to southern Nevada. This season, the team has not traveled more than the two hours it took to compete in the Sacramento preseason tournament in early March.
Wunder is glad his team is not traveling on the same day it plays, but he also said there will be some challenges his staff will look to minimize.
"We've never seen or played at UNLV," he said. "We're going to go check that out when we get there so we can get acclimated to the field. We'll walk around as well. That should be about the same time as Thursday's game time so we won't be shocked by the temperature.
"We'll keep it pretty relaxed, check out the field and have a team dinner. The challenge becomes what do you do all day Thursday. We'll go out and practice, break a sweat, come back and relax. It's a matter of keeping them rested and focused but not putting too much pressure on them. They know what to expect. They'll already be a little nervous. We'll see what we can do to best to mange that."
Livreri likes that has team should be comfortable by staying in Clark County and avoiding a long trip, but he knows that doesn't necessarily go real far once the pitches start.
"I've got mixed feelings about playing down here," the Bulldogs coach said in a phone interview prior to his team's Tuesday workout. "We enjoyed coming up to Reno last year. We won and it was a good experience to get away from home, but being we're at home this year, there are comforts. You sleep in your own bed. More fans should be here for us. We're just excited to be back in it.
"Two years ago, we had a bad experience. We played state here and lost the final two games of the championship. So that stuff can go either way. It doesn't really matter where you're playing."
It certainly hasn't mattered much where Centennial has played this spring. The CHS club has won 21 of its last 22 outings, dating back to March 29. The lone loss in that stretch was a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Palo Verde on April 20. That's the Bulldogs' only loss to a Silver State opponent all year. Their other six losses came in traditionally tough preseason tournaments against out-of-state competition.
If Reed is to knock off Centennial, and then string enough wins together to bring a state title back to the Truckee Meadows, it will need junior right-hander Jackie Sertic to be on her game. She pitched all 49 innings in the Raiders' regional tournament run and pitched back-to-back games on both Friday and Saturday last weekend.
"We're going to rely on Jackie to pitch," Wunder said. "She's got to hit her spots against their big hitters. She can't leave something across the plate. She definitely must be solid and we must be smart aggressive hitters at the plate. If we can do that, I like our chances to be there at the end. If one of those is not there, the odds of being successful at this stage are probably pretty low."
With all that said, Wunder hopes his team has a fun trip and soaks up the state tournament experience while still looking to win. He doesn't want last week's emotional ride through regionals to be the highlight of the team's spring campaign.
"The kids are certainly excited to make this trip," he said. "None of them has ever been to Vegas for state. I want them to enjoy it but we're not going down there to lay an egg. It's been a couple years (2010) since the North has won one (a state softball championship). People have been sending us good luck messages. The kids really want to go down there and create their own memories."
Sunrise Region champion Green Valley (23-9) and Sunset Region runner-up Palo Verde (27-7) meet in the other first-round state tournament matchup. First pitch for that contest is slated for 3:45 p.m.