Ciera Jones inherits a Gaston squad that has won consecutive league softball titles
Having grown up in populous northern Virginia, first-year Gaston softball coach Ciera Jones is still experiencing a little culture shock as she transitions into coaching at the small-school level, but she has been pleasantly surprised at how quickly she has been welcomed into the Gaston community.
Ive been happily surprised with everything. The parents have been really supportive and everybody has just been great, Jones said. I think Ive been very lucky to get a group of such hard-working girls.
Jones inherits an experienced team that returns all four infielders, plus pitchers Brielle Matson and Haylie Davis.
Matson, a senior, returns after suffering a broken ankle that shelved her for the entire 2012 season. Davis stepped in and pitched as a freshman, leading the Lady Greyhounds to a 14-1 Northwest League record and their second straight league championship.
Matson will resume her duties as the teams primary starting pitcher this year, while Davis functions as a closer.
Thats been working really well so far, Jones said. Its really nice having two pitchers of their caliber.
Jones also said that shes been impressed with Matsons work ethic as she returns from last years devastating injury.
Shes worked hard to earn her starting position, Jones said. I wasnt here last year so I have nothing to compare it to, but shes looking great to me. Shes a dominating pitcher and she also has a very strong bat.
The Gaston infield will be patrolled by four seniors, all of whom started last year. Cassie Van Dyke will play third base, Whitney Cookston will start at shortstop, Tayla Kuyl will play second and Kourtney Proffitt will be at first.
Sophomore Jaycie Endicott will step in as the teams starting catcher this year, while a trio of sophomores patrols the outfield Davis in right field (when shes not pitching), Carly Christian in center and Kasey Cookston in left, with Amber Kuyl also seeing playing time as a flex player.
Because Im new to the area I didnt really know what to expect, but the girls have been working really hard and they are very committed, Jones said. The past two-and-a-half weeks their focus has been outstanding.
The Lady Greyhounds visit Sheridan on Thursday before traveling to Irrigon over spring break for a tournament that will feature some of the top 2A competition in the state.
Im really looking forward to getting the girls some experience when the pressures on them, Jones said. They did a really good job with fundraising and I think theyre excited for this trip.
Weve all agreed that if we go out and give it everything weve got, no matter the opponent, then the season will be a successful one.