Cain said the sudden ending to a promising season left them all hungry for more. The coach and his players went to work in the offseason with the hope that they could finish what they started.
“I think, last year, we got a taste of where we should have been,” Cain said. “I think a lot of people thought that we were just happy to get to the second round, but I think, when we got there, we found that we could compete at that level. We had a fairly young group that didn’t go to Columbus with us in 2010. Last year was an eye-opener, and this year, it was our main goal to make it to Columbus.”
Cain said his seniors led the charge, and he did his best to put the team in the position to be successful. The pieces came together for the Lady Grizzlies (25-11), who were the only team from Cherokee County to survive the first round of the state playoffs. Creekview swept through the second round to earn a spot in Columbus, though it lost consecutive games and were eliminated.
For pushing his players to achieve more, Cain is the 2013 Cherokee Tribune Softball Coach of the Year.
“I think that, as a whole team, they got behind it,” he said. “That was the big difference from a year ago.”
Cain joined Mike Nayman’s staff in 2009 and was with the Lady Grizzlies when they got to Columbus that season and the next. He took over for Nayman in 2011 and, this fall, led the team back to the state finals for the first time as a head coach.
“I usually just kind of think of a ‘we’ concept,” Cain said. “I never really think of it as ‘me.’ I just kind of try to continue the tradition from the coaches before me.”
Cain said he took cues from the coaches before him — Stephanie Norris, who started the Creekview softball program, and Nayman.
“They did a great job,” Cain said. “Coach Norris got it started for a year and then left it to Mike. He did a great job and had great athletes in his tenure. I just wanted to not mess things up, so to speak, and continue the success there.”
Cain said a lot of the success goes back to the athletes and the support from the parents and administration.
“We are a competitive bunch there at Creekview,” he said. “Softball has been one of the more competitive sports, but a lot of the sports now are getting into the playoffs and going deeper in the playoffs. It’s a mindset. It’s important. We go in each year knowing that we have a shot at making that top level.”
Even now, Cain is looking forward to next season. Ace pitcher Gracie Dorr will return, as will other key players as Tiffany Godfrey, Annie Conrad, Ashley Walraven, Savanna Gruber, Casee Disharoon and Madison Dionne.
Cain hopes to take the team to an overnight tournament early in the season to give them a taste of travel, which could help them down the stretch.
“You know, it’s never easy (getting to state),” Cain said. “We are in a tough region, and we will be in a tough new region next year, but I never say, ‘If we get to Columbus …’ I say, ‘When we get to Columbus …’ I think they are going to have a better mindset of what we need to do and what to expect. I’ve got to get them ready for that.”