‘Have fun and compete’: Alcoa softball’s rise to a state championship
The Tornadoes’ four seniors used their state tournament experience four years ago to win the school’s first state softball title
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Anyone who’s ever competed in anything - from chutes and ladders to an Olympic decathalon will tell you winning is fun. For the last four years, Alcoa softball has been winning and having fun, but took it a step further this season on the way to the school’s first ever state softball championship.
Lady Vol for life Sarah Fekete Bailey took over the Tornado program four years ago and helped guide her first team to the state tournament. It was a less than memorable trip to the midstate - Alcoa opened with an 8-0 loss to Creek Wood and a day later were shut out by Sequatchie County 7-0.
Senior Abby Hembree was a freshman on that team and said her experience at that state tournament helped prepare her mentally for her final postseason run.
“When I went there freshman year, I was so intimidated. This year I wasn’t because I knew we could play that level of competition because we practiced for it and worked for it,” said Hembree.
The team’s motto all year was “have fun and compete”. Hembree says that adage changed the team’s mindset.
“Of course we wanted to win, but we wanted to have fun doing it. It changed our mindset. It wasn’t just pressure, pressure, pressure. It was let’s have fun, let’s do what we can and focus on the little things. It helped us loosen up a little bit on the field,” said Hembree.
Senior Cassa Arnold said Bailey helped the girls believe in each other - something that came in handy in Saturday’s winner-take-all game against defending AA state champion Forest.
“Being so close with each other and being able to trust each other was really important and we knew that whether we had a bad game or a good game, we’d be able to come back together because we had that trust within our team,” said Arnold.
Alcoa (29-13) loses Hembree and Arnold to graduation, along with Kursten Kinder and Italia Kyle.
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