With a full softball team that won a state title last year returning, sans two girls, this year, the goal for Tri-County Academy was clear.
It would take another state championship for the team to reach its full potential.
It’s tough to ask a team to repeat, as so few actually do it, but anything else would have seemed like somewhat of a disappointment with so much talent returning.
The season was set up for either glory or despair, and fair or not, there was little in-between.
With all the pressure on Tri-County, it would’ve been easy for them to faulter, to slip and fall, to fail.
But they didn’t.
Simply put, the Lady Rebels were even more dominant than they were a year ago.
With a 29-5-1 overall record and an undefeated conference record, the Lady Rebels’ accomplishments speak for themselves and gives them a legitimate claim for the greatest softball team the school has ever seen.
According to Tri-County head softball coach Chris Jones, the pressure never once fazed his team because of their humble, business-like approach to the season.
“There was really no pressure on our team this year,” Jones said. “Sure the expectations were high going into the season, but we never really talked about it. From day one, we just went out there and worked hard. We let every game come to us and took them on one at a time. We never got ahead of ourselves at any point.”
Although the Lady Rebels were strong in the regular season, they peaked when the playoffs came around.
They rolled through the competition in the North State AA Tournament undefeated to make their way to the State AA Tournament.
One team after another fell to the destructive, yet delicate, hands of the Lady Rebels.
Despite the competition stiffening as the season went on, confidence and experience were keys for the Lady Rebels’ undefeated postseason run.
“We went undefeated in conference play and had some pretty tough games against Central Holmes and Canton, but we were able to come through it undefeated,” Jones said. “We went into North State, and they were all pretty good teams. We just played with a lot of confidence and had good bats and good defense. We went undefeated there and it carried over to the State Tournament. We played with a lot of confidence throughout the whole series.”
The Lady Rebels’ unstoppable postseason run continued in the state finals where they ran through Heidelberg in back-to-back games by scores of 4-3 and 5-4 to earn their second straight State AA Championship.
Jones believes that his team’s work ethic was what allowed their dominant performance throughout the year.
“It gives me a lot of confidence when they believe in themselves and want to win,” Jones said. “They’re working hard in practice. It starts in practice. They never backed down from working hard once all year. Most teams idle down in practice once the season starts, but we kept going with what we did and what got us there. They continued to pound out every day. When we didn’t have games, we had practice. That was kind of our motto. We were going to work hard and let the rest play out.”
But Jones does not believe his team earned this accomplishment on talent and hard work alone.
“Like I always tell them, you have to work harder than the other guy,” Jones said. “As long as you work harder than the other guy, good things will always happen. We have a lot of faith on our team. Our school thrives on faith in the Lord, and we put our faith in the Lord. He gave me the talent to coach them and gave them the talent to play. It’s up to them to use what He gave them. That’s how we go into every game, and that’s how we’ll go into next year’s season.”
The Lady Rebels will be losing senior leader Caroline Bennett, a good center fielder that batted over .350 for the season.
But with only one senior graduating from the 2015 squad and eight returning starters, including the sensational Sydney Davis on the mound, the future looks extremely bright for the Lady Rebels.
Can you say dynasty?