For the last two seasons the Jay M. Robinson softball team has been on top of the South Piedmont Conference.
This week, the Bulldogs look to stay there as they host the 2011 SPC tournament after winning both the regular season and tournament titles last year
Robinson (13-6, 11-3) is also the hottest team in the league, having won nine straight games going into the tournament. But the Bulldogs still have a lot they want to accomplish.
"The girls are really pumped about the tournament, especially because it is on our home field," said Robinson softball coach Jim Allen. "We feel like we have unfinished business."
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While Robinson is the reigning champion, seven other SPC teams will be out to get them, including Northwest Cabarrus and Central Cabarrus, who have spent a lot of the year, either tied or insole possession of first place in the SPC.
Hickory Ridge, Mount Pleasant and Cox Mill have also been in the mix for most of the year and will make for an interesting matchup no matter who they play.
Concord and A.L. Brown have struggled for most of the year, but now have new life in the postseason, where one upset can turn the tournament upside down.
The SPC is one of the most competitive leagues in the state and that is what makes this tournament so special, according to Allen.
"It's definitely one of the stronger conferences in the state," he said. "That means anything can happen this week. You have to be ready every time you take the field."
Robinson will host the softball tournament semifinals and finals. First-round play began Tuesday at higher seeds' stadiums with semifinals taking place Thursday at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. The conference final will be played at 6:30 Friday following the consolation final.
Jay M. Robinson
After a slow start, the Bulldogs rallied to win their final nine games of the regular season - all against SPC teams.
The team looks to continue their success into the tournament and the playoffs.
Junior pitcher Dallas King has been a major reason why the Bulldogs have been so hard to beat, leading her team with a 12-3 record and 1.5 ERA.
King will need help from a veteran core of seniors, including Alex Church, Megan Crowe and Hayley Lewis, who want to end their Bulldog careers on top of the SPC.
Robinson is the team to beat, until someone else knocks them off their pedestal, especially on their home turf. But expect, the Bulldogs to get every opponents' best shot.
The Trojans have also been at the top of the SPC standings for most of the season with a team that has blended experience and youth nicely this season.
Senior catcher Taylor Allen is the leader of the squad with classmates Michaela Boyd, Hannah Eudy , Casey Sweet and junior Andrea Jones also coming up big for coach Lori Treiber.
Freshman pitcher Katie Willford is the Trojans' wildcard. She has gone 12-5 on the mound with 1.7 ERA, while hitting .438 with 14 RBI.
The Trojans want to prove they are the league's best and will likely have to go through Robinson at some point to do so.
The Vikings have spent their share of time on top of the SPC this season for good reason, as they possess a wealth of talent.
Junior shortstop Mellena Helms, who was one of the Vikings' primary pitchers in 2010, has emerged as one of their top hitters and defensive playmakers this year.
Helms will need a lot of help from classmates third baseman Tori Cragan and Ali Hartsell as well as senior Taylor Fain and sophomore Erica Bost.
The Vikings will also need freshman pitcher Kaylee Freeman to keep pitching beyond her years. The first-year Central Cabarrus starter has already proven to be one of the SPC's best.
Central has the talent to win the SPC tournament, even with a younger roster. How well their pitching holds up against the top teams will dictate their chances of winning it.
The Ragin' Bulls have shown they compete with the league's best this year with wins against Robinson and Northwest Cabarrus to their credit.
Hickory Ridge will be looking to pull similar feats in the SPC tournament, where no one will want to play them.
Senior catcher, Kimberly Newton (.455) headlines a deep and talented batting order that also features junior Hannah Bright (.440), Jessica Hagler (.366), Julia Sanders (.357) and Ally Yeager (.413).
Junior pitcher Alexis Eudy will also be a major key in holding opponents down, having a 2.43 ERA on the season.
The Bulls have lost some heartbreakingly close games to some of the top teams in the SPC. This week, they hope the ball bounces their way.
The Chargers have also been competitive against the top teams in the league, recording an early season win over Robinson to show for it.
Cox Mill will be playing for their postseason life, which will make them a tough matchup for any team.
The Chargers are led by twin sisters Nikki Faust, a pitcher, and Amber Faust, a catcher. The battery mates have proved capable of playing with anybody in the league.
Cox Mill will likely have pivotal first-round matchup with Hickory Ridge, which will be a huge game and momentum boast for the winner
The Tigers are a talented team, but have struggled down the stretch falling into the bottom half of the league standings.
Mount Pleasant will try to upset a team behind junior Taylor Carpenter on the mound. Carpenter, who is also one of the team's top hitters, will look to get her team on a roll.
Senior shortstop Lindsey Huneycutt and sophomores Jessica Eudy and Brandi Hudson will also be key players for the Tigers.
Mount Pleasant has a tall task of winning three games in three days against the top three seeds if they want to win the tourney. If their pitching can keep them in the games, the Tigers have the talent to do it.
The Spiders have been competitive for most of the season, but have not been able to climb from near the bottom of the SPC ladder.
Junior pitcher Kristin Durant leads Concord and has the stuff to keep her team in games. She will have to do just that for the Spiders to pull off an upset.
Seniors and four-year starters Shannon Arthur, a shortstop, and Jenna Brunnhoelzl, a center fielder, also provide the experience and talent to make a run.
Like Concord, A.L. Brown has shown signs of good softball, but have struggled to win in the SPC.
The Wonders do have talent, starting with All-SPC shortstop Zebresha Blakeney, who can be a game-changer with her speed.
But A.L. Brown has won only one game in the regular season and doubling that with a first-round upset against a talented Robinson team will be a tall task.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer for Cabarrus news. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.