Happy Valley has taken some lumps with a young roster the previous two seasons.
Now, with seven players returning with starting experience, the team has an opportunity to make some waves in the Three Rivers Conference.
“We’re more optimistic for sure,” said Happy Valley coach Mike Dorsey. “We don’t have any more seniors this year, we’re still babies. But if they can mature like I’ve seen them do over the summer, I think we might win a bunch of games.”
The Lady Warriors lost three players, two to graduation, from last year’s squad. There are five juniors, four sophomores and five freshman on the roster.
Both of last year’s pitchers, junior Brittany Morefield, who will see time at first base, and Brooke Simmons, a shortstop off the mound, return.
“We want them to throw strikes and let us field it,” said Dorsey.
Returning juniors include Hannah Blevins at third base and Jessa Dugger at left field and second base.
Sophomore starters include catcher Kiara Coffey, Kaitlin Campbell at second base and left field and Allison Williams in right.
A pair of freshmen in Kaylee Street and Krisley Roberts have earned starting spots for the squad. Street will roam center field and bat leadoff, while Roberts will play shortstop as well as outfield.
Street, Williams, Simmons and Coffey will top the team’s order with Dugger following suit.
“We hit the ball hard,” said Dorsey. “With Street as a freshman coming in and starting at center and being a slapper, that helps. Then you have Allison, Brooke and Kiara, then Jessa’s after that.
“Last year, I felt like we had three outs in the lineup. I don’t believe we have that now.”
Juniors Sarah Mounts and Katrina Higgins, along with freshmen Autumn Bergendahl, Amanda Hennessee and Macey Fisher round out the squad.
Dorsey feels good about the performance aspect of the team, it’s the mental makeup of a young squad that could determine improvement in key areas.
“I feel good about the defense and the pitching,” he said. “I think the hitting will be okay. It’s just the mental mistakes and playing older than they are.”
The coach expects the team to challenge among the top three teams in the conference by the year’s end.
“That’s what I expect,” said Dorsey. “Whether they get there or not, who knows. If we stay healthy — we’re a little thin on the bench this year, but if we stay healthy I think we’ll be in every game. It’ll take a break here or there.”
The Lady Warriors open the regular season at home Tuesday against county rival Unaka.