With the Maryville softball team starting the season off with a record of 1-6, and a district record of 0-3, the 2019-20 season has served as a challenge for the program.
While the team boasts skilled players like senior center fielder Jessica Finch or junior pitcher Ashlyn Alexander, many of the team’s struggles come from young, inexperienced players. Though age and talent level can be an issue for a competitive sport, opportunities to improve these athletes can be somewhat lacking. Competitive and traveling teams in the offseason are becoming even more of a necessity, but are often seen far and few between.
“The downside of fall softball is that you have the whole summer offseason, which is great, but if the girls don't take advantage of some travel programs or local town teams and stuff like that, then they are essentially sitting around for the entire summer,” coach Chandra DeMott said.
Though much of the team has been involved in some sort of competitive softball, the few that haven't had to adjust to the game and the strong competition in the MEC are having to learn quickly. Although basic skills and lingo are huge adjustments for some of the girls, repeatedly going over the smaller aspects of the game can be beneficial for the veterans as well.
“It definitely shows you that sometimes you need to take a step back and realize like, ‘OK, maybe we do need to work on the basics a little bit more’,” senior pitcher Riley Gray said. “It is sometimes a little frustrating because there are some things we’ve known since we were like 10 that they're just now learning … It really tells you how to grow as a team, how to work together and how to help each other build each other up to get the best of your ability.”
After facing challenges against traditionally successful teams like Savannah and Worth County, the ‘Hounds have to take time to refocus and regroup. All while catching inexperienced players up to speed and continuing to build and strengthen the skills of the seasoned players.
For many in Maryville High School and the surrounding community, this is considered a slow season or a rebuilding year. Without the dedicated group of players the team has this year, the whole season could've been seen as a negative. Now these players are stepping up and taking leadership positions to better the team for this season and many seasons to come.
“Briley Watkins and Morgan Wray are the two that come to my mind. They're really good about communication and even since freshman year they've always been willing to learn,” Finch said. “They both play travel ball, and I've played travel ball with them, so I've always had them around. They're just really good teammates.”
Although the season hasn't gone as well as the ‘Hounds had hoped, the team's outlook on success isn't based on their overall record. DeMott, along with many of her players, stated that the prosperity of future teams is based on the teaching and bonding that is taking place this season.
With many players stating the girls are less selfish, more attentive and more willing to learn compared to past years, this season is still viewed as a successful year, just not as reliant on numbers or an end record.
The family bond the team has created this year, along with the confidence they see in younger players who will hopefully bring Maryville softball back into the ranks, is all DeMott and the team could ask for.
“I could stand here and name names all day, but for the most part, our girls have really bonded to the family concept,” Demott said.“They’ll fight like sisters, but at the end of the day, they all get along really well.”