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Bond Between Rachel Garcia, Bubba Nickles Goes Beyond UCLA

(Photo courtesy of USA Softball)

Rachel Garcia and Bubba Nickles have lived some of the best moments of their softball careers together. The current UCLA teammates have both played integral roles on the Bruins' softball team over the past few seasons and, most notably, helped the program capture a national title last June.

But no moment was more significant in the softball careers of UCLA's current redshirt senior Garcia and senior Nickles than the one that occurred on Oct. 6, when the 2020 United States Olympic softball team was announced.

"I was doing my homework because I’m obviously still in school," Nickles told Softball America about the morning Team USA was announced. "Rachel Garcia texted me and it popped up on my laptop and I didn’t even check the email yet, so it was kind of crazy."

Garcia, who is the two-time defending USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year, was less of a surprise inclusion on the 2020 Olympic roster than Nickles was. Over the summer, Garcia also won the Honda Cup as the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.

"I texted Bubba first," Garcia told Softball America about finding out that they both made the Olympic team. "I was like, 'I'm super pumped for you.'"

For Nickles, who is one of four current or former Bruins on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team, the moment was surreal.

"I was in shock," Nickles said about USA Softball's Olympic team announcement. "I thought it was so crazy and unexpected when I found out I made the team and I made the roster."

But Nickles' abilities on the softball field should not be underestimated. The utility player hit .390 last season with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs for UCLA. She also went 7-for-20 in the 2019 Women's College World Series (WCWS) with two home runs, three RBIs and seven runs scored to earn a spot on the All-Tournament team.

"Bubba is a unique person," said Garcia, a stud pitcher and hitter for the Bruins who took home the 2019 WCWS Most Outstanding Player award in June. "Just being able to be on the field with her and actually graduate with her now, it just makes this journey with her more special."

The teammates, who are also great friends, took similar paths in their softball journeys. Both women grew up in California and played elite travel ball before beginning their collegiate careers at UCLA. Now, they will embark on a special journey to the Tokyo Olympics together with Team USA and then return to UCLA to complete their college softball careers in 2021.

"I love Rachel so much," Nickles said. "It’s amazing to be on this journey with her. I grew up playing against her in travel ball, so it’s amazing to see her hard work pay off."

Since they will forever be linked in USA Softball lore as Olympians, the strong relationship that exists between Garcia and Nickles will likely only improve in the coming year as they prepare for the experience of a lifetime next summer in Tokyo.

"We have each other’s backs," stated Nickles. "We’re in this together."

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