Four senior infielders from the 2010 Whittier Wildcats' softball team graduated last spring, leaving behind a team with youthful potential, but questions about who would lead this team of youngsters back to the state tournament.
After just seven games, consider the questions answered.
Off to a 5-2 start, and with just one senior on the roster, the team features an explosive offense, averaging 10 runs per game. Led by sophomore co-captain Cassey Glode, who is batting .704; junior co-captain Kailah Goulet, who is batting .556; and sophomore 2B Caitlyn McHugh, who is batting .609, the team's biggest concern is maintaining mental toughness through the ups and downs of a long season — the first varsity campaign for several of the team's starters.
"You can't have your head down," Goulet said. "You just have to focus. When you get on the field, all your other problems go away. Once you cross the white lines, it's all softball."
Glode, who plays yearround in the Amateur Softball Association of America league, said mistakes come with the territory of leading a young team, but added it's the way the team's leaders address those lapses that matter the most.
"We all support each other," she said. "We always just try to correct their mistakes, and keep them positive."
Head coach Cheryl Begin said maintaining a balance between discipline and support is key to keeping her young team on track.
"You have to get what you want from the players," she said, "but you have to respect them as players."
Begin added that this year's team is hungry after losing four senior infielders to graduation in 2010.
"They're motivated, they're putting in the work, and they see the light at the end of the tunnel," she said, adding the team practices two hours per day, six days per week. "They're tough. They want the wins."