Lofty expectations for Banks
One year after winning a long-awaited state softball championship, Banks reloads with another talented team intent on winning it all
When asked if her teams mindset would be any different this season after winning a long-awaited Class 4A state championship last spring, Banks softball coach Jenny Compton was pretty clear.
Weve had a target on our backs for several years now, so its not a whole lot different this year, she said. I think its something weve become accustomed to. With the success these kids have had not just in softball, but in volleyball and basketball I think theyre kind of comfortable with it. I think theyll be able to handle it quite well.
The Lady Braves have handled everything else thats come their way in the last three years, ranging from a state runner-up finish in 2010 to an early playoff exit in 2011 and finally their breakthrough performance last year, beating Cascade to capture the schools first state softball championship since 1999.
While that victory was undeniably sweet, Compton and the rest of the Banks coaching staff must deal with the loss of four irreplaceable seniors from that team, not to mention the pressure of being the defending state champions.
But, like Compton said, this group has handled pressure with remarkable aplomb.
Gone are seniors Melissa Masters and Marla Gooding, both of whom are playing Division I college softball this year, plus fellow seniors Chelsie Bunn and Natalie Larsen. That group may have been the nucleus of the Lady Braves state title team, but several key players are back this year, including senior Kaylin Vandomelen, the Class 4A State Player of the Year as a freshman in 2010, plus rising stars Riley Gerlinger, Lexi Chung and Courtney Engeseth.
Were going to be looking to those seniors for leadership, and I think this will provide a really great opportunity for them to step up, Compton said. Weve got to keep our focus on one game at a time, and not get distracted thinking about where we want to be at the end of the season.
I think its going to be a fun year. I think were going to have a really good season.
Vandomelen split pitching duties with Masters and Gooding during the regular season last year, but she will get the lions share of the innings in 2013.
Kaylin is probably going to have a more prominent role on the mound this year, Compton said. Shell be throwing more of of the innings and be supported by a couple of other pitchers.
Gerlinger is a three-year starter at second base, while Engeseth returns at third base and Chung is back in the outfield.
Other returners include sophomores Hannah Van Domelen (first base) and Madison Soper (third base), both of whom started last year, plus juniors Molly Hammond and Taylor Herb.
One issue Compton will need to monitor is the teams health, with Gerlinger suffering a sprained ankle and Chung separating her shoulder during basketball season. This on top of losing starting catcher Aubrey Rue to a season-ending knee injury.
Rue will serve as the teams manager this year, while Chung and Gerlinger work their way back to 100 percent.
Were just going to be real cautious with them and be sure to not rush them back, Compton said. We cant afford to rush them back and have them get hurt even worse.
Compton knows that all eyes will be on her team this year as the Braves shoot for their fourth consecutive Cowapa League championship and possibly their second state title. But she also knows that this team can handle the lofty expectations.
Whether people think were favored to repeat or not, it doesnt matter, she said. What matters is focusing on each game and making sure you execute every time youre out there. Having finally won a state title definitely helps, because I think theyll be able to handle that pressure.Add a comment