Newton, Alcovy need a fresh start in 2011
As the summer enters its final few weeks for the local high schools, the fall prep sports are right around the corner. Football, cross country, softball and volleyball begin less than two weeks after school starts, which is August 4. With that said, it's never too early to talk about a few things before we get into previewing the seasons.
This will be a big year for both Alcoy and Newton softball. It's safe say based on the way last season went for both teams. The Lady Tigers and Rams took a step back in 2010 and will both be looking to erase their seasons of inconsistency. Neither team met their expectations in 2010 and much of that can be attributed to both team's senior classes.
After an 11-18 season, Newton looks to turn the page on a disappointing end to its season. The Lady Rams made the postseason but weren't a factor as they were defeated handedly by Kennesaw Moun- tain in the opening round of the Class AAAAA playoffs. Last year was perhaps even more disappointing if you factor in the Lady Rams had the same pitching tandem of Shay McInerny and Holly Springer poised to have big senior seasons. Instead, both pitchers didn't fare too well with the new, further pitching mound distance and neither was able to build on the previous two years they had as starters. What's more, slugger Markea Sheppard had a better junior season and didn't have the same protection in the lineup with the loss of Chaconna Marks to graduation in 2009. That said Sheppard still had a solid year at the plate and was unaffected by the distractions that often plague senior athletes. The same can't be said about Alcovy.
The Lady Tigers had a solid inaugural season under first-year head coach Monica Marks but struggled against the elite teams in the region. After having their way with the
competition for two years in Region 4-AAAAA, the Lady Tigers' move to Region 3A-AAAA proved difficult.
As the season progressed, Alcovy struggled down the stretch. The Lady Tigers needed to beat Harris County in the region playoffs to make it to the state tournament and they were swept in two close games. Alcovy's struggles can be attributed to the loss of several key players late in the year.
The Lady Tigers' best pitcher Dallas Hardin was shelved for the last month of the season and she wasn't the only senior counted on to lead the team who went down to injury toward the end of the year. In fact, three players Alcovy counted on heavily were nonfactors down the stretch. It isn't the first time Alcovy has struggled with losing key pieces. In 2009, Alcovy's best hitter Amber Melton couldn't play her senior season due to academics.
The Lady Tigers must buck that trend to be successful in 2011. With Jones County, Woodland Henry and Union Grove in the same subgregion, Alcovy can't afford to lose many games.
This year could be a breakout season for Chelsea Thomas. Thomas was Alcovy's best hitter a year ago as a sophomore and was thrust into the starting rotation and became the Lady Tigers No. 1 pitcher. She's also the team's best fielder, anchoring the left side of the infield when she doesn't pitch, so her value cannot be overstated. But Thomas should shine as she is now the team's leader and won't have the senior class that played four years to distract her.
Several of Newton and Alcovy's senior players seemed to check out late in 2010 and that certainly didn't help things over the final two weeks. Now that each team has a batch of new seniors, it'll be important for both Marks and Newton coach Virginia Waters to keep everyone motivated throughout the year. Neither team can afford to take a game off as each plays stiff competition. If either is going to make a postseason run, both Alcovy and Newton will have to turn the page on 2010 and treat each game with a purpose in 2011.
Alcovy's Chelsea Thomas is poised to lead the Lady Tigers back to the state playoffs.