Huskies hungry for next season
Entering last week’s state tournament, Highland softball had been ranked No. 1 for all but the first week of the season.
That made the Huskies the favorites heading into the tournament in Fort Dodge, and after a 5-0 win in the quarterfinals, it seemed they were on their way to rolling to a state championship.
Then in the semifinals, the errors piled up for Highland. A 6-2 loss to Eddyville Blakesburg ended the Huskies’ 25-game winning streak, and they couldn’t recover in the third-place game against Woodbury Central, as Highland fell to a fourth-place finish in the 2A tournament.
“(The disappointment) is with me and I know it is with my other coaches,” Highland head coach Carrie Weiland said. “We got fourth in the state out of 128 teams and I think that we have to be so proud of these girls. It’s harder to maintain No. 1 than it is to go down, so I think they did what knew they could do and they worked really hard. I’m proud of them and what they’ve accomplished.”
The Huskies were charged with five errors in the game against Eddyville Blakesburg, and the Rockets managed 12 hits in the game to down the Huskies in the semifinal.
“The physical errors made us mentally down, because we hadn’t done that all year,” Weiland said. “That was more shock with us, and Eddyville is a good team and they took advantage of it. I don’t know if it was mental, but it kind of happened.”
Coming into that game, Highland’s only loss was to Solon, who finished second in the 4A state tournament.
The next day, Highland played for third place, and Woodbury Central got a quick jump on the Huskies, putting up a 5-0 lead after 2 1/2 innings, and winning 8-3.
“We had only lost one game all year and we didn’t know how to lose,” Weiland said. “I don’t know if you ever want to learn how to lose, but throughout the season we usually just came out on top. The second game was a difficult loss and mentally it took the wind out of our sails, but I thought we bounced back in the next game well.”
While the fourth-place finish left the Huskies feeling disappointed, there is a sense of optimism.
This was Highland’s first trip to state since 2008, and they will return a majority of the starting lineup in 2015, losing only three seniors to graduation.
“It’s huge for the whole team, even the non-starters,” Weiland said. “They see and feel the experience and intensity. I really hope they use that. I’m glad we got to do this for the three seniors because they have put a lot of time and effort into leading the team to this point. We’ll miss them, but that experience of getting them there, far exceeds anything we could have given them.”
Part of the returning group includes Cheyann Adamson, who was among the state’s top hitters with a .554 batting average, Katie Springer (27-1, 1.56 ERA) and Kelsey Hora, who had a phenomenal tournament, going 6-for-10, with three runs and an RBI.
Looking to next year, the Huskies return a lot of great statistics, but will need to take things one step further to pick up the coveted state championship.
“We need to work on that mental game and putting pressure on ourselves,” Weiland said. “That is our biggest key going into next year, and they need to have good seasons in volleyball, basketball and track, and keep working out. We were strong and we out-powered a lot of people, but this is going to help us for next year.”