For Heather Carnes, her first season as Marvin Ridge’s head softball coach went too fast to fully enjoy it.Less than a month removed from her own collegiate softball career at Averett University (Va.), Carnes was named the Mavericks’ head coach last season.Carnes proceeded to lead her first Marvin Ridge team to a school-record 20-3 mark, winning the Southern Carolinas’ Conference regular season and tournament titles before finally falling to Jay M. Robinson 3-2 in the fourth round of the 3A playoffs.Now, Carnes, 24, said the Mavericks’ biggest challenge is to do it again.“I definitely set the bar pretty high last year; it’s not going to be easy to live up to that,” Carnes said. “But we believe being even better is an achievable goal. These girls haven’t skipped a beat this offseason.” They have to find a way to replace all-state performers Madison Arroyo (now at Mississippi State) and Peyton Jordan (UNC Wilmington), as well as Claudia Spinelli (UNC Wilmington) and Jessica Steele. The Mavericks do still have a solid senior duo, though, to provide leadership this season: Jessica Curtis and Kelsey Kasza (Limestone signee, S.C.).Both Curtis (third base/pitcher) and Kasza (first base) played key roles on last year’s team, hitting over .300. The two are also part of a group that wants to prove it can be just as good as the 2013 squad. Curtis will help ease the loss of Jordan on the mound as one of team’s top pitchers.The Mavericks feel good about their chances with a talented lineup that includes: juniors Madeline Boigner (center field), Ashley McGowan (catcher) and Amelia Pruitt (right field); sophomores Juliana Bass (shortstop), Casey Bigham (second base) and Dharma Rosbrugh (pitcher); and freshman Celina Lombardo (pitcher), who was nominated for Greater Charlotte Youth Softball Player of the Year.“As a junior last year, I paid attention to every detail of the way the seniors led us,” said Curtis, who is getting college softball interest from Bridgwater College, UNC Greensboro and Guilford. “They did a great job and we had a great year, but we want to be even better. To go as far as we did last year and lose was tough. We don’t want it to end that way this year.”Their coach sees that extra motivation from last season’s playoff loss in her 2014 team.“To know that they’re not okay with how last year ended says a lot,” Carnes said. “They’ve dedicated a lot of extra time and effort into getting ready for this season. We feel like we have a ring to win.” The Mavericks are also motivated by the championship accomplishments within their own school. This fall and winter, the Marvin Ridge boys’ soccer, girls’ swimming and girls’ track teams all won 3A state titles.“We definitely want to join that club,” Carnes said. “But to get there we have a lot of work to do. It starts with contending for a conference championship and beyond. We’ve got a lot of great teams in our way.”While the Mavericks have a younger team overall, Curtis says they have a good mix of youth and experience. “A lot of people think we are not going to be as good because we are younger,” said Curtis. “We’re more than excited to come out and prove people wrong, and make our dreams a reality.”
Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014
Marvin Ridge softball is playing with something to prove
Five to watch
• Jessica Curtis – Marvin Ridge, Sr. Pitcher/Infield, 5-foot-9. All-conference senior will take on even bigger role as one of team’s top pitchers and hitters (hit .330 with five home runs last year) with classmate Kelsey Kasza (Limestone signee). Curtis has interest from several schools including Bridgewater (Va.) College, UNC Greensboro and Guilford.
• Kayleigh Jonas – Porter Ridge, Sr. Pitcher/Infield/Outfield, 5-foot-5. The Pirates’ all-state performer and Mount Olive signee wants to help first-year coach Constance Orr get into championship form.
• Hayleigh Gimber – Piedmont, Sr. Utility/Infield/Catcher, 5-foot-2. Versatile all-state performer and Brevard signee expects to have another big season after smacking 41 hits last year.
• AnnaRose Borelli – Weddington, Sr. Infield/Pitcher, 5-foot-10. All-state Warrior and Furman commit hit over .560 last season and is also big on the mound for Weddington as it looks to contend in a loaded Southern Carolinas’ Conference.
• Haylee Kobziak – Cuthbertson, Soph. Catcher, 5-foot-8. Had a strong freshman season playing right field and hitting .455 with three homers.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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