Lady Bobcats feel good about bounce-back season
Last season ended in bitter disappointment for the Basehor-Linwood softball team.
After a first-round regionals upset loss to Piper, the team who had made state in four of the previous eight seasons was sent home early.
Was the squad motivated in the offseason after a season that ended too early?
"If we weren't, then something is wrong," coach Susan Mayberry said. "They were upset after that game. We need to be better at fighting through adversity. We really have some outstanding leaders on our team, and that goes a long way towards creating an environment where people are accountable."
Despite the upset, the Lady 'Cats finished 12-9, the only BLHS sports team that finished above .500 last year.
Will the team feel less pressure to succeed this season after other BLHS teams have been revived?
"This is my 10th year coaching, and I feel that (pressure) always there because we are the last sport," Mayberry said. "If nothing has happened until the spring, there is that (pressure). We are used to that. The kids are so used to winning that they expect it. We are used to success.
"As a coach I am always trying to figure out how to get an edge, so that goes through my mind. I am not sure if it affects the kids at all."
The team suffered a major blow when Kristal Holland graduated. Holland pitched every inning for BLHS over the past three seasons, and also pitched for part of her freshman year. Holland was also proficient with the bat and will have to be replaced in the middle of the lineup.
The pitcher moved on to Central Missouri State.
"I think it is an adjustment when you get to practice," Mayberry said of the team's adaptation to the loss of its biggest star. "You look to her as the leader. (The team) understands the process of graduation and that they will have to be focused this year and concentrate on their jobs."
Mayberry said that Holland was more of a strikeout pitcher and her replacement, Erin Shore, is more of a location pitcher.
"(Shore) won't back down from anyone," Mayberry said. "We feel good about how she has taken on the responsibility. She has gotten herself into a pretty good rhythm. She is improving every practice. For three years she was an outfielder, but we had told her that this could be a possibility when was younger."
Holland was the only senior last year. The Lady Bobcats coach is pleased with her veterans this season.
"I am really impressed with our two seniors, Erin Shore and Laura Reeves," Mayberry said. "They have been in program for four years and every year have worked really hard to improve as athletes. They are team players and they know what it takes. They have done an outstanding job."
Mayberry said her team is returning eight letter winners, all of whom have starting varsity experience. The coach believes she has a focused, experienced group that won't succumb to outside pressure.
"I think we will be fine, I really do," Mayberry said. "Two years ago we made the state tournament when no one expected us to, so last year there was an expectation to surpass what they had already done. They weren't happy with how the season had ended. They will be more focused. Everybody was gunning for us, I don't know if we were ready every time."
The coach believes this team is better equipped to deal with expectations than last season's version.
"They know how to police each other," Mayberry said. "These kids were freshmen and sophomores when we made it to state. None of them could drive, none of them could date, none of them worked.
"Now, a lot of things are coming into their lives and we need to make decisions and set priorities. The perception was that we were just going to show up and everything would work out like the last year. When we needed to catch a break, we couldn't get it done."
The Lady 'Cats will host regional competition this year, something that has Mayberry excited.
The ultimate goal? Mulvane, Kan.
"In my mind our first goal wouldn't be to win the Kaw Valley League, it would be to win regionals," Mayberry said. "If we finish fourth in the league and win regionals, we are going to state. We'd rather peak at regionals."