NORMAN — When coach Stephanie Riley begins a season, she has the big picture in mind. For her Moore fastpitch team, that means making sure the players know what they are playing for before the season even begins.
“We are looking good for our 2013 season,” Riley said. “We began preparing for the state tournament on July 1st and everyday is a continuation and working toward the big game.”
However, the Lions haven’t captured a state title since 2007. They came close last year, but fell in the championship game to Edmond North.
Yet, MHS comes into the season with high expectations.
“This team has the potential to be very fun to watch,” Riley said. “We began practicing on the field on July 26th and I do not think there has been a day that we have not laughed about things happening on the field. We have a few characters that make coaching life very enjoyable.”
The Lions’ first game took place Friday in a contest that was supposed to be played at MHS. However, due to rains the night before, it was moved to Carl Albert.
Moore was back on the field Monday when it decimated Norman 16-1.
“Since last October, we have been working on the mental aspect of the game and learning to work through situations that seem impossible,” Riley said. “They began their practices on July 1 with two Crossfit coaches and our Women’s soccer coach. They were asked to do things that they didn’t think they could and they learned to persevere. It was amazing to see them grow as student-athletes in those four weeks of training.”
As the Lions go through the season, Riley will be looking to her upperclassmen to lead the team back to a championship level.
“Jenna Lynn, senior, will be at the center of our team,” Riley said. “She has worked really hard throughout the off-season to increase her pitching skills, as well as her mental approach to the game. Brittani Johnson, senior, and Demi Dobbs, junior, will share time behind the plate. Caitlin Hall, Sable Hankins, and Brianna McArthur will all hold key spots in our defense and our offense. The seniors have all shown great leadership skills and they continue to work harder every day.”
On the other side of I-35, rival Westmoore is also off to a strong start. With games at Sapulpa and Enid along with competing in the Broken Arrow tournament, the Jaguars have not played a home game yet.
That will change Thursday when Westmoore will host Owasso. It’s the type of schedule that veteran teams know how to maneuver through, which is what the Jags have this year.
“We think they look good; they look different as we lost our catcher, short-stop, and an outfielder from last year’s team,” Westmoore coach Jenni Rollins said. “However, we have some athletes ready to fill those positions. We believe we have a very talented group of young ladies and we are excited to get started.”
Despite the loss of key players from last season, the Jaguars return several athletes Rollins is expecting to see big seasons from.
“We always expect strong showings from our seniors and this year that will be Destinie Lookout and Shayla Lucas,” Rollins said. “We also expect, with strong leadership from those young ladies, that the underclassmen in the line-up will also have strong showings.”
While Westmoore has the talent to make a run a state title, the coaching staff believes it’s the intangibles and that will decide what type of year they have.
“The biggest challenge for them right now is communication, we are replacing vital roles on the field and some of those kids played next to each other for three years, now they have someone new next to them and they are learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to work together,” Rollins said. “We hope they are exciting to watch, hard-working, skilled individuals who play well together as a team. A team that represents Westmoore on and off the field.”
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