HV girls should be successful

By Wes Holtsclaw

STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   After a substate outing last season behind an abundance of youth, the Happy Valley Lady Warriors are on the prowl this softball season.
   The maroon and white will be led by solid pitching and team defense this season, one that could very well see a conference championship on Warrior Hill.
   "A key for us will be experience," said Lady Warrior coach Karri Killen. "We were a young team last year and we have the same group back. That makes my job a whole lot easier as far as their ability."
   The Lady Warriors relied on a defensive effort last season, but this year they are ready to take their offense to another level. That's a big key to any successful season.
   "In the two games we've had, everybody either scored or got on base," she said. "That's a big help and it's been somebody totally different. Everybody does their job and I look for us to have a strong finish if we play like we have been."
   Taking the leadership role of the team this year is senior Leanna Howell. She will see a lot of play from the third base position and will be called on for some pitching duty.
   Said Killen: "She is a strong player and she wants to step it up her senior year."
   "I'd like for us to go all the way this year," said Howell. "It would be nice to have an undefeated season. We did good last year and this year could be one of the best years we've ever had."
   "This is a great team, everybody gets along and we work together as one. There is no I in this team."
   Juniors Alicia Dick and Kortney Goulds will be the top two pitchers for the Lady Warriors. Both will rotate at the second base position, while junior Mandy Byrd will control the plate as catcher.
   "Pitching is maybe 70 or 80 percent, but at least 20 percent is the defense behind you," said Kortney Goulds, who already tossed a perfect game this season against Sullivan Central.
   "You've got to be able to throw it over the plate so the defense can back you up and you've got to have a good catcher," she said. "Our catching and defense is solid this year."
   Juniors Jeanie Hawkins, Terra Whaley and Jennifer Osborne will be roaming the outfield this season, while sophomores Kate Powell (shortstop) and Jessie Blevins (first base) will finish out the infield.
   "We have a lot of expectations and we put a lot on ourselves," Killen said. "Last year, we were barely over .500 and we made it to sub-state. We've got our stuff together and they have a good work ethic."
   "They want to work, win and do good. Their goals are like mine, but they may have higher expectations."
   Crissy Sutherland (Junior, OF) Christy Shell (Soph., OF/P) and Randi Williams (Fresh., 2B) will see some time for Happy Valley this year as well, helping polish the rotation.
   The Lady Warriors will see strong competition from Unicoi County and Elizabethton among others this year. However, they will see a big test when they face the Lady Devils on Thursday in Erwin.
   "Unicoi County's always good," said Killen. "The girls want to strive and beat them this year. They lost eight last year, but they're still going to be a strong team. We've got to play solid."
   Said Alicia Dick: "We know we have the ability and talent to beat Unicoi, they lost a lot and we're still young."
   "I think we can play with anyone," she said. "Every year we have got better. Our big thing is defense and our offense has picked up, so we should be ready."
   Added Goulds: "We've matured a lot, but its still a young team. We know how to step it up and we want to get the job done."
   The Lady Warriors have a tough task in front of them, but they have the potential and work ethic to do big things this season.