Lake Norman High’s softball team will have many familiar faces returning for the 2015 season.
But there’s been one change – a new coach – and that has given the Wildcats’ players a new feeling about the start of the season.
“It’s a little scary,” junior Kasey Moffett said. “It’s not as comfortable, because there’s a new coach. But she can see us without knowing what we’ve done last year, and put us where we can benefit the team the most.
“She should put us wherever she thinks the team would be the strongest. If that hurts some feelings, then we need to get over it. It’s a team sport. It’s not an ‘I’ sport.”
Alex Lemings has taken over Lake Norman’s program, replacing Bob Hall, who had a record of 112-20 over the past five seasons.
In that span, the Wildcats won three consecutive conference titles (2011-2013) and played in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state playoffs all five years.
“There’s expectations here, and there’s pressure to meet those expectations,” Lemings said. “I’ve tried to make myself as familiar with last year as possible, but at the same time it’s a new year and a new program.
“We’ve got a new group of girls that have come in (as freshmen), and obviously a new coach. I don’t know one girl from the other as far as how they were in the past, so it’s a fresh start for them.”
Most of Lake Norman’s players – all but two, both seniors last year – are back from the 2014 team, which made its longest run through the state playoffs in school history.
The Wildcats advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to conference rival and eventual state champion Alexander Central, and finished the year ranked No. 15 in the state by national high school athletics website MaxPreps.com.
Because of Lemings, however, the early-season workouts for the returnees have been more spirited than usual.
“It’s even better having a new coach, because everyone is on edge,” said Jamie Pisel, one of five returning seniors. “They don’t know if they’re going to make the team or not. She doesn’t know you, so it’s really coming down to how you perform in front of her. So every single workout, everyone is trying their hardest and doing their best. It’s actually awesome, because I’ve never had so much fun.”
Said Moffett, “We’re having to prove ourselves. We’re trying to show (Lemings) what we can bring to this team, to win a conference title or win a state championship. So we’re definitely seeing everybody’s best hustle and dedication.”
Lemings said that dedication has already shown itself, even before Lake Norman’s players began practicing in mid-February.
“We’ve been doing morning conditioning, beginning at 6 a.m.,” Lemings said. “For the girls to show up for that just shows an amazing level of dedication. Just seeing how hard they work in there, how positive they are with each other and how uplifting they are, that puts a coach’s mind at ease.”
Of course, to achieve that goal of a state championship or even winning another conference title, the Wildcats have one major obstacle to overcome – Alexander Central.
The Cougars have won two straight 4A state titles, four of the past six and five overall under head coach Monte Sherrill since the NCHSAA switched from slow-pitch to fast-pitch in 1994.
Alexander Central, ranked No. 1 in the state by MaxPreps.com the past two years, also enters the coming season riding a 67-game winning streak. Lake Norman has also lost five straight to the Cougars, with the Wildcats’ last win coming in the third round of the 2010 playoffs.
“The reputation (Alexander Central) holds gets into people’s heads,” Pisel said. “We’ve played our best game against them, and we’ve also played our worst. That’s what we let bring us down.
“With the talent and experience we have on this team, we can easily beat anyone if we set our minds to it. We just can’t let ourselves get distracted.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at email@example.com.
Feb. 25: vs. North Mecklenburg (scrimmage), 4:30 p.m.
March 3: at Fred T. Foard, 4:30 p.m.
March 5: at Hough, 4:30 p.m.
March 9: at Ardrey Kell, 4 p.m.
March 17: at Alexander Central, 4:30 p.m.
March 20: vs. Alexander Central, 4:30 p.m.
March 24: at Statesville, 4:30 p.m.
March 25: vs. West Iredell, 4:30 p.m.
March 27: vs. Statesville, 4:30 p.m.
March 31: vs. South Iredell, 4:30 p.m.
April 1: at West Iredell, 4:30 p.m.
April 2: at South Iredell, 4:30 p.m.
April 14: vs. North Lincoln, 4:30 p.m.
April 15: vs. Hopewell, 4:30 p.m.
April 17: at North Lincoln, 4:30 p.m.
April 21: at North Iredell, 4:30 p.m.
April 23: vs. Marvin Ridge, 5 p.m.
April 24: vs. North Iredell, 4:30 p.m.
April 28: vs. Mooresville, 4:30 p.m.
May 1: at Mooresville, 4:30 p.m.
May 4-8: North Piedmont 3A/4A tournament at Alexander Central.