The Lady Knights moved up from Class AAAA, and they brought some company with them. Add to that the departure of Pope for Class AAAAAA, and the three teams from Cherokee County — Creekview, River Ridge and Sequoyah — all feel pretty good about their chances of reaching the state playoffs.
Longtime Sequoyah coach Todd Morrissey expects his team to be back in the hunt for a region title, as he does each season.
“Every time Sequoyah steps on the field, we are on the hunt for a region title,” said Morrissey, who coached the Lady Chiefs to a state championship in 2006 — the last for a Cherokee County team, along with Woodstock the same year. “The last 23 years, we have been to the first round (of the state playoffs) or deeper 20 times. This program is steeped in tradition.”
Morrissey’s players wear practice shirts that reference the program’s past success in the playoffs.
“There is a lot of pride in this program,” he said. “Each years is a little bit different, though.”
Creekview coach Chance Cain said his team doesn’t want to just get back to the playoffs. It wants to advance to the final eight in Columbus.
“We lost four starters last year that were major contributors to our team, but I think we have girls that are ready,” Cain said.
Still, Cain filled a few of the spots on his varsity roster through tryouts, which concluded Tuesday.
River Ridge finished tryouts Tuesday, making Wednesday what coach Scott Bradley called the “first normal practice.”
Like the other steam in Region 7AAAAA, the Lady Knights won’t have much time to practice before the games start counting.
“There isn’t much turnaround,” Bradley said. “We are starting region play so early because we have 14 teams in there. We will start out quick and hit the road running. No scrimmage game. No non-region game, so we’ll see what happens.”
River Ridge will face Cass in its first region game Tuesday — one week after the end of tryouts. Two days later, it will face Sequoyah.
Sequoyah will put a young team on the field after playing a lot of freshman and sophomores a year ago. Madison Gianfala (second), Mikayla Cagle (utility) and Alexa Johnson (outfield) are some of the returning players.
Bradley said his team will have to play more consistently if they want to make the playoffs, which he thinks that is possible since he only graduated a few players from the 2013 team. The Lady Knights will start seniors at first base and behind the plate, with Kiley Rediger and Katelyn Brack, respectively — both of whom have started on varsity since they were freshmen.
The pitching staff of Emma Pope, Heather Williams and Jessica Mirocha will also be intact, while the middle infield, and the bulk of the outfield will be comprised of underclassmen.
Morrissey feels Creekview and Woodland-Bartow will be the teams to beat in Region 7AAAAA, while Cain was wary of Kell, Sequoyah and Sprayberry — but he believes any one team can trip up another.
“Fourteen teams — it’s going to be a dogfight to get to the state playoffs,” Cain said. “Hopefully, we can be on top, but the main thing is getting our foot in the door for the state playoffs. We do have an eye on a region championship, though.”