Jaguars set sights beyond state
At most levels, a team's success is based purely on wins and losses. That's not as true at the high school level, and with the 2002 Mill Valley softball team it's not true at all.
"I asked the girls to come up with their team goals for the season," Mill Valley coach Pat Sullivan said. "None of them had to do with winning. Personally, I think that's a great thing. If your mindset is to win state, then your success is based on one thing one game. If it's based on other things, you can still have a successful season, and the winning will take care of itself."
In place of wins and losses, the Jaguars' goals for the upcoming season is to deal with character and academic standards.
The teams goals are, in order: to achieve high academic success, to never be tardy for any team-related activity, to play to the best of their ability every time out, to be the most respected team at Mill Valley, and to make no excuses.
Four of those five will likely be easy to do. The last goal, however, might be what outsiders are expecting. After losing three key players from last year's state runner-up team, the Jags could easily be stockpiling excuses in prepara-tion for this season.
Leadership, talent and experience left with Ashley Perkins, Aimee Siler and Shannon Keith, but Sullivan insists this year's team has the talent to be successful.
Mill Valley's 2002 varsity roster has only three seniors. Heather Krempa, Brooke Woolery and Jennifer Goode will contribute their leadership and experience to the squad, but a strong group of juniors and sophomores will also be counted on to lead the team back to state.
"We are still extremely young, and we did lose a lot from last year," Sullivan said. "But our state team had six freshmen who are a little more experienced this year, and we're really looking forward to this season."
The team returns seven letter winners from last year's 17-9 squad along with two all-Kaw Valley League picks. Woolery, a shortstop, and sophomore first baseman Sarah Luschen were both picked to the all-KVL second team last season. Those two players make up half of the Jags' experienced infield. Junior second baseman Mandy Heinrich and sophomore third baseman Katrina Heinrich return to the lineup as well.
Sullivan said defense and mental toughness both trademarks of last year's team would again be the Jags' strength.
Despite losing one of the best hurlers in the area in Perkins, Sullivan said he expects the team's pitching to again be one of its strengths.
Last year's No. 2 starter, Tiffani Thurman, will move into the top spot. She will be joined in the rotation by the team's most-improved player from last year, sophomore Erin Thomas.
"Our pitching is young, too," Sullivan said. "But it should be strong."
To help compensate for starting the season with little experience, Sullivan said the team would have a tougher mental approach to every game.
"We don't care who our opponent is," Sullivan said. "We just want to go out there and play to the best of our ability. Whatever happens after that, happens."