Candrea has led the Cats to a 806-168 record and five NCAA titles in his 15 years at Arizona and feels the 2001 club has the talent and experience to make another run at a championship.
"We have a great deal of talent and quite a bit of experience, and the good thing is that we're better than we were a year ago," he said. The 2000 team finished 59-9 and fourth place in the club's 13th consecutive trip to the College World Series.
"I think we'll be a better offensive team, our defense should be strong and the people in the pitching circle have done some good things for this team," he said.
Junior pitcher Jennie Finch (29-2) and senior Becky Lemke (30-7) are among the Cats' six returning All-Americans along with senior outfielders Lauren Bauer and Nicole Giordano, senior catcher Lindsey Collins and senior third baseman Toni Mascarenas.
That nucleus and some strong newcomers give Candrea a good blend of proven skill throughout the lineup and on the field.
"All of us are eager to get started. We had a good fall practice and have worked hard since earlier this month, now we're ready to put on the uniform and see what real games will bring," Candrea said.
Arizona opens its exhibition season with an Alumni Game at 3 p.m. Saturday at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Cats open official play in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 2-4 in a seven-team Louisville Tournament.
The first home date is Friday, Feb. 16, in the Wildcats' own Pepsi Arizona Classic.