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Photos by Kyle Parmley.
Third baseman Caroline Hart is one of five seniors for the Bucs.
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Photos by Kyle Parmley.
Willa Green is putting extra emphasis on her last high school softball season, since she has no plans to play in college.
The on-field talent is undoubtedly present, and now the Hoover High School softball team is counting on off-the-field growth to elevate the program’s status during the 2017 season.
Conversation with the team’s five seniors reveals little to no talk about happenings inside the white chalk. Only two players graduated from last year’s squad that reached the North Central Regional, meaning there is plenty of familiarity amongst the current roster.
Second baseman Shelby Lowery signed with the University of Montevallo, and pitcher Abby Grace Praytor is now at Spring Hill College. The rest of the infield has remained intact, with seniors rounding it out. Caroline Hart is back to man third base; Kaley Anthony returns at shortstop, Willa Green is at first base, and Abby Tissier is back behind the plate.
“We have a lot of leadership and experience in the infield,” Green said.
They seem to have learned a great deal about themselves after last season and are looking to make their final season at Hoover a memorable one.
“The main thing was we did encounter some hard stuff last year, but that allowed us to get closer,” said outfielder Leslie Norris, the other senior for the Bucs. “Not everyone is perfect all the time. Having that time to figure what each other’s weaknesses are and build off of that makes you become better when you’re at your high points.”
In an effort to get closer as a team, the team looked outside of softball. During the offseason, the team hosted a pumpkin carving contest and enjoyed its annual Christmas party. The girls have a Bible study once a week and also make the occasional bowling excursion.
“We just worked to get our family stronger so that we can be able to rely on each other when we need each other,” Green said.
That enhanced closeness allows the group of girls to push each other harder once on the field, having earned the trust of teammates and the credibility that comes with respect.
“As a team, we need to be the team that everyone knows that we work hard,” Tissier said. “Everyone knows that we’re going to come out here and do what needs to be done, and we’re also going to do that outside the park, outside the ballfield.”
That work will not stop now that the season has begun.
“Our focus is to get better every day and grow stronger,” Hart said.
Hart also spoke to the team making more pointed goals this season, moving past the clichés of a normal set of objectives that everyone holds.
“For everyone in the state, [the goal] is to go to state, obviously,” she said. “So for us, we talked about making smaller goals that are day by day.”
The five seniors hope to lead the Bucs back to the state tournament in their senior season, something that has eluded them since 2014. Four of the five are moving on to play college softball next season, with the exception of Green.
“It hits me harder than it hits them,” Green said. “I’ve been playing for 14 years and to just not have it one day is kind of sad, because of the relationships and because of the friends I’ve made.”
All the more reason to make the most of the 2017 season.