- Last Updated on 05:27 PM 05/26/13
- BY Doug Ford
It’s all about momentum, and the Halifax County High School varsity girls softball team has a lot of it heading into Monday’s Northwest Region Tournament quarterfinal game at home against Battlefield High School at 3 p.m.
Sweeping the regular season and tournament titles in the Western Valley District for the fourth straight season has given the Comets a good dose of confidence and momentum for the regional tournament, according to Head Coach Melanie Saunders.
Building momentum and confidence has been a season-long work in progress with a team that currently includes five seniors but also includes two freshmen, two sophomores and four juniors.
“In years past, we’ve had girls who played together since they were young and knew what the person beside them was going to do before they did it,” said Saunders.
“We had to build that, and after the Franklin County tournament we knew we had some work to do.
“We had athletes who could play but weren’t putting it all together. They were hesitant at the plate and not confident in the field, and we told them we want them to be aggressive in what they do.
“Some of them have had to learn that, because some of them are very passive, and we want our kids to be leaders, we don’t want them to be followers.”
The home loss to Franklin County High School proved to be a turning point, Saunders pointed out.
“I think the Franklin County loss was one of the best things that could happen to us as far as understanding what we needed to do and how our work ethic needed to improve,” explained Saunders.
“It’s been a work in progress, and it really has made Gi (Assistant Coach Jennifer Rutledge) and me proud with the kids coming together and starting to do things they weren’t at the beginning.
“We’ve started to see smiles on faces and people stepping up who didn’t before, and we’ve gotten further than a lot of people anticipated.
“A lot of them thought we’d finish second or third (in the district).”
The intensity of a regional softball game is something many members of her team will experience for the first time, and mental toughness is something the coaching staff has been preaching the past several months, Saunders said.
“That’s what’s going to win ball games for you, and when you reach this level each kid can play the game physically, it’s going to be the kid who’s tougher who’s going to come out on top,” she explained.
“We just need to keep proving to people what we can do, and they can go as far as they want to go.”
Halifax will need to be aggressive at the plate and solid on defense to advance against a perennially strong Battlefield team, Saunders noted.
“We can’t watch first strikes go by, and we have to continue to play solid defense,” she said.
“Taylor Barnes has been doing a great job for us on the mound.
“She’s been giving us quite a few strikeouts, and the defense has been solid behind her.
“Early in the season, she was bringing the ball, and they were hitting it, and she was missing her spots, but her pitches are working now.”
Another freshman, Cecilie Elliott has worked her way into the starting lineup at shortstop, and her confidence has grown along with that of the team as a whole, according to Saunders.
“By no means are we perfect, and we have things we can improve on, but we’re confident and are going to go in and give it 100 percent,” Saunders said.
“We always tell them whatever they do always finish strong.
“We want to do it for the whole team, but we want to give everything we’ve got for the seniors.
“It’s a good group of kids, they make you look good and they trust you, and that’s a good thing.”
“When kids trust you and believe in you, oftentimes they believe in themselves more, and that’s the biggest thing we teach them,” Saunders added.
“Believe in yourself and your ability. We have confidence in you, and just go out there and have fun.
“When you have fun, you do so much better.”