WHEN Zach Black took over the position of Jefferson High School’s head softball coach in the summer, he knew right away that his squad of Lady Dragons had no lack of passion and drive.
Now, with a 17-5 (9-1 region) record, Jefferson is in control of the top spot in region 8-AA, ranked fifth among all AA teams and is in prime position to make a deep playoff run. But judging by Black’s first impressions, it’s hardly a surprise the Lady Dragons are having a successful season.
“I came in knowing we had some girls returning who had some experience at the varsity level,” said Black. “From the first day I met the girls their work ethic has been great and you can tell they enjoy playing the game. To be in the position we are is a credit to them and the work ethic they bring to the field each day.”
Jefferson now only has two more region games to play before heading into the region tournament, and if the Dragons can knock off Oglethorpe County in a doubleheader on Thursday, they will likely have the number one seed and be in position to host the tournament.
“Being a number one seed in the region tournament would be good because it means we would get to host and not have to travel,” added black. “We have not had many home games this year so any extra we can add is a good thing for the girls.”
A number one seed in the state tournament would be even more appealing for Jefferson, but the Dragons will need to be at the top of their game when they face other region frontrunners such as Social Circle and Union County in the tournament.
Still, Black believes his team will respond well in the face of pressure and adversity.
“I think a big challenge we have faced (this season) is not beating ourselves and how we respond to adversity,” Black said. “Each game there will most likely be some adversity faced and how we respond can dictate the outcome of a game. We just try to control the things we can and see what happens.”
For now, the Dragons will continue to lean on the senior leadership of Ashley Boyd, Jordan Phillips, Savannah Snapp and Raegan Sandy as the post-season approaches.
“Our girls have done a great job this year adjusting to a new coaching staff for their senior year and continue to lead and work hard each day,” added Black. “They set an example daily to our younger players…(who) have done a great job stepping into some key roles for us and working hard each day.”
Black attributes much of the success of his team to how well his players and coaching staff have melded as the season has progressed, and he expects that success to continue as the staff unceasingly works to build the program.
"I think our chemistry as an overall program is continuing to get better,” said Black. “These girls are starting to get close to one another and trusting what each other can do, and that goes a long way. As a staff the assistant coaches are great. Kimberlee Tolbert and Sam Moore are doing a great job not only coaching these girls, but also helping with field preparation, and other daily activities. Dawn Kinlaw and Caroline Adams are doing a great job with the middle school program and getting those girls ready to move on to the next level. I feel extremely blessed and thankful for this opportunity and getting to work with a great staff, administration, and a great group of girls.”