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Originally published Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 12:31 PM

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Washington pitcher doesn't think she's a star

Constantly receiving congratulations for an accomplishment now eight months in the past started wearing thin for Danielle Lawrie almost immediately.

AP Sports Writer

SEATTLE —

Constantly receiving congratulations for an accomplishment now eight months in the past started wearing thin for Danielle Lawrie almost immediately.

Sure, getting noticed is nice and uncommon for most softball players on a college campus. But Lawrie is edgy and speaks her mind freely. So while regularly hearing praise for bringing a national championship to Washington last year is appreciated, she kindly says she's finished with it.

"This year is a new year, a new focus. It's not the same. I've got to find a way to get better and we as a team have to find a way to get better," Lawrie said. "And you can't rely on, 'oh, we won last year,' because realistically it's the 2010 season."

Along with a new season comes a set of elevated expectations. It's all new territory for a program that a half-dozen years ago was reeling when former coach Teresa Wilson was fired following a scandal involving a team doctor giving out powerful prescription drugs to players.

Now, they enter the season as the top-ranked team in the country and with Lawrie coming back for her senior season as the reigning national player of the year. Their first game is against Auburn in Tempe, Ariz., on Thursday.

"It's been difficult to let it go. And I think that comes with it being the first time a lot of us have ever experienced a national championship," said Washington coach Heather Tarr, a former player for Wilson. "But just like a poor season, you have to be able to get rid of it and let it go. You also have to do that for the good seasons."

If there was ever someone prototyped to handle these kinds of expectations and scrutiny, Lawrie might be it. She's self-deprecating and honest about herself and her team.

She doesn't back away from admitting that at times she might become brutally upfront with some of her teammates if listening to all the publicity the Huskies receive starts having a negative effect.

"It gets down to the point that if we want to do what we did last year you can't be that catty girl, you've got to accept criticism. If you're mad at someone for a little while, be mad at them but don't let it affect practice," Lawrie said. "It comes down to being hard on one another. If you candy coat everything, it's not how I want things to be."

Last year, Lawrie went 42-8 with a 0.97 ERA and 521 strikeouts, one shy of the Pac-10 Conference single-season record.

She was already a contender for player of the year honors, but gained national headlines when she threw every pitch of a 15-inning, loser-out victory over UMass in the NCAA regional final, where Lawrie struck out 24 and tossed 251 pitches in her second game of the day.

Then in the Women's College World Series, Lawrie went 5-1 with a 1.55 ERA and became the first player to be named national player of the year and win a national title in the same season.

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And if Lawrie had her way, all those accomplishments from a year ago would be encapsulated and forgotten about when Thursday arrives.

"I think it was the best thing ever. Nothing will ever be able to beat that," Lawrie said of the national title. "But I want to reflect on that after we have two or after this year is done. That's where I'm at."

Tarr agrees. She understands there will be road bumps no matter the expectations. The Huskies are replacing four starters from last year's championship team and the freshmen and sophomores replacing those experienced vets will need time to make mistakes.

But having Lawrie on the mound makes absorbing those mistakes easier to tolerate.

"Having somebody like her is key because she sees things like you need to," Tarr said. "She sees them from a competitor's standpoint ... meaning let go of what happened, good or bad and move on to the next pitch. That's really what the game is all about."

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