This summer, the Lady Eagles are setting their sights on a goal that they feel is far more important than winning a handful of scrimmage games.
The East Jackson softball team aims to use its July to grow together as a cohesive unit, and, according to head coach Brent Howell, the results have been promising thus far.
“Our biggest goal this summer is bonding,” said Howell. “We’ve had a lot of girls playing in different areas with different teams — some high-caliber teams. We are just trying to get everybody back and coming together as a team.”
With that goal in mind, East Jackson’s seniors and team leaders have started a new initiative and possibly a tradition for the Lady Eagle softball squad. The upperclassmen players have been holding weekly team meetings, as well as frequent social outings.
Howell said he is pleased with the take-charge attitude of his veteran players and hopes that the social activities will help teammates develop strong relationships on and off the field.
Of course, team bonding isn’t the only objective Howell hopes to accomplish during the summer league session. He hopes to get an idea of where each of his players’ strengths lie, and what positions they may be able to fill.
“It’s good to get out there on the field and see where we are at,” said Howell. “We want to fine-tune and see what roles everybody will play. We are trying to find who will step up and replace some of our seniors from last year.”
The Eagles lost three full-time starters to graduation in May, so East Jackson can expect some positional competition to ramp up play this summer. And even with a majority of last season’s starters returning, Howell believes nothing is guaranteed and everything is earned.
The Eagles have hosted approximately 20 girls per practice and conditioning session since the second week of July. Emily Hollis, Caitlin Brock, Sam Minish and Kristin Whitlock are all expected to play large roles in their senior seasons, along with rising juniors Ashlie Wuertley and Jayden Bennett. Meanwhile, a strong sophomore class of Faith Grooms, Niki Carver, Nicci Murphy and Jessie Marvin will likely play an increased role this season.
Carver was named to the All-Region 8-AAA first team after last season, while Grooms made the all-region second team.
“Some of the girls who played a lot last year are going to have even bigger roles this year,” added Howell.
Howell said he has been pleased with attendance thus far and hopes to be able to field two teams – junior varsity and varsity squads – for the first time in two years.
East Jackson played in its first summer league scrimmage at Franklin County on Tuesday, and will continue a slate of summer games Thursday when the Eagles head to West Hall to face the Trojans and Chestatee in a tri-tournament.
The Eagles will kick off the 2014 regular season at the Lanier Point Tournament on Aug. 8, before opening region competition at Oconee County on August 12.