Northwest Cabarrus' senior class has come up big on the softball diamond.
Aside from leading the Trojans offensively, the four girls - catcher Taylor Allen, center fielder Michaela Boyd, first baseman Hannah Eudy and shortstop Andrea Jones - have also grown into the leaders their team needed.
"It's our role to lead this team - to motivate the younger players to play better," said Jones.
With six freshmen as well as a sophomore and two juniors on the team, the young Trojans needed their seniors to step up, and not just on the field.
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"They've done a good job of incorporating the younger girls in and making them feel like they're part of the team," said Northwest Cabarrus coach Lori Treiber.
"I've coached a lot of years and this is the first time that I've had true senior leadership."
The seniors have also come up big at bat, leading the team in RBIs. Eudy was first on the team with 20, followed by Boyd's 13 (as of April 14). Allen and Jones were tied for third with 11 RBIs a piece.
"We expect them to get the hits when there are people on," said Treiber. "It's not a hope, it's an expectation. All four of them can do the job."
At the plate, Allen has led her team with a .420 batting average. Boyd and Jones are both hitting .340, while Eudy, who has been the Trojans' power hitter with six home runs on the year, has a .327 average.
Boyd said she and her fellow seniors have the experience necessary to play big for the team.
"We've been in a lot of situations," she said. "We've been there, so we know how to play under pressure and we try our best to come through and pick up our teammates."
The senior class is 58-25 in their four seasons at Northwest, including 12-5 (6-3 in the South Piedmont Conference), heading into last Friday's game against Central Cabarrus. The Trojans have reached the playoffs in the past three seasons.
Returning seven players from last season's 14-9 team that finished fourth in the conference, the team had high expectations coming into this season.
Their main goal is to win the SPC title. Having been No. 1 in the conference for part of the season, the Trojans are still in the hunt for a championship with a week and a half to go in the regular season.
With how balanced the SPC has been, Jay M. Robinson, Central Cabarrus and Cox Mill could also win the title. The standings are close, so it could come down tothe last game of the year.
"If we do our job, I'll be happy," said Treiber of her team's chances. "We'll see how it all plays out."
The seniors know it's going to take focus to reach their goal.
"Everybody has to want the same goal on this team," said Allen. "We have a lot of talent, so if that happens, we could definitely do it."
The seniors will have the help of freshman pitcher Katie Willford, who's having a breakthrough year. She's 9-5 from the circle, recording a 1.60 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 96 innings pitched. Willford is also hitting .342 and has eight RBIs on the season.
Junior second baseman Lindsay Shore has also contributed on both sides of the ball for Northwest.
Treiber said her Trojans are more rounded than last season's version.
"We're more of a team, more of a unit - we have more of a chemistry," said Treiber. "We can play through mistakes."
Again, the seniors have a lot to do with that.
Having played together and on opposite teams since middle school as well as on travel teams, the group has grown close, becoming friends off the field. Jones and Allen are even best friends.
"We have a very strong bond," said Eudy. "There's a lot of teams that don't have that."
This also has allowed them to become confident of one another.
"We know how each other plays," said Boyd. "We just know we'll pick each other up."
The Trojans have played well throughout the year, despite having what Treiber describes as a hiccup the last few weeks, when they lost two conference games - to Hickory Ridge and Jay M. Robinson - by a run each.
Treiber attributed that to her team's cold bats.
"We're hitters - so that's why that's been so frustrating," said Treiber. "We should be hitting the ball better."
Against A.L. Brown last week, the team got in a groove again, getting nine hits, including a home run by Allen, to defeat the Wonders 12-2 in six innings.
After the regular season, the Trojans' focus will shift to getting out of the first round of the playoff, which is as far as they've gone the last few seasons.
Treiber said the seniors will have to play with urgency and focus the rest of the way for her team to do that.
"This is their last chance," said Treiber.