The Mount de Sales softball team will make its first trip to Columbus for the state quarterfinals as a GHSA program thanks to a great season and the effort of a strong freshman class. But the trip wouldn’t be possible without the heart and soul of the team — the senior class.
Mount de Sales will face Eagle’s Landing Christian in the first round of the Class 1A private school championship tournament at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
“They’re just so excited because that’s what they’ve been thriving to do since I started four year ago,” head coach Katherine Smith said of her seniors. “It’s just special because I started with them, and I get to end with them in Columbus before they graduate.”
The seniors — Gracie Blackwell, Carson Edwards, Haley Hatcher, Asia Laconico and Erin Wallace — have supplied a foundation on which future Cavaliers teams can build a program of sustained excellence. When they started their journey as freshmen, they never imagined the road to Columbus would be this difficult.
“Honestly, our goal freshman year was to make it to state,” said Hatcher, who plays third base. “We struggled a lot. We had a lot of battles to overcome.”
Those battles resulted in three seasons of growing pains when wins were hard to come by. In their first season, they won three games, and they doubled that number during their sophomore campaign and tripled it as juniors. But nine wins were a far cry from Columbus-worthy.
“I remember freshman year, we always worked really hard, and I felt like we had worked just as hard as any other team; we just didn’t have it,” Laconico said. “We kept in mind that these people coming up were going to be really big and that we had a really good chance this year.”
The players coming up were the talented freshmen, led by pitcher Jordyn Partain. The wins picked up immediately, and so did the spotlight on the freshmen. There are many upperclassmen who would have resented a group of freshmen coming in and garnering such notoriety, but this senior class chose to embrace it.
“The seniors have been so good because they have the experience and the maturity that the freshmen are still developing,” Smith said. “They have totally embraced those freshmen coming in; there’s been no division between the two. They were excited to have the freshmen and knew that with their group and them (the seniors) that we were going to have something good.”
Mount de Sales earned the trip to Columbus by defeating Mount Pisgah in a three-game thriller. Next up is an experience no one on the team has faced: Columbus and the championship tournament.
“We are obviously the rookies here,” Laconico said about the Columbus trip. “I think the other teams come in and think they are going to win, but we want it more.”
Edwards said the Cavaliers will need a healthy balance in order to approach the tournament with a proper mindset.
“Our goal is the final four. I think we are trying to go in confident but not cocky,” Edwards said. “We are all practicing hard, praying and hoping that we will be strong enough in our next games to get there.”
Regardless of how far the Cavaliers advance this weekend, this is inevitably the beginning of an opportunity to make this trip every season. It’s also an opportunity for these seniors to make memories they will never forget.
“I’ve never felt like this in a sport before,” Hatcher said with excitement in her voice. “Just beating all these teams that we’ve never beat before and then having this opportunity to go this far, it’s just been amazing!”