Coming into the 2017 softball season, the Smyrna Eagles are hoping the third time's a charm when it comes to making a deep playoff run and perhaps challenging for the state title.
The Lady Eagles are just two seasons removed from posting a 3-15 mark; since then, Smyrna has gone a combined 23-13 and made two playoff appearances. However, despite qualifying for the state tournament the past two years, Smyrna is still searching for their first playoff victory since 2011 when the team advanced all the way to the DIAA state title game.
This year’s group is a formidable one for Smyrna, featuring 10 returning players including seven starters. Three returning players, Madison Drummond, Olivia Faragher and First-Team All-State outfielder Kaelyn Press have been a part of the last two playoff teams for the Lady Eagles.
Meanwhile, fellow returnees Madison Price, Abigail Mace, Madison Steele, Sara Miller, Jessica Anderson and Autum Wilson are also back from last year’s playoff team.
Smyrna also adds several newcomers in freshmen Alexis Moore and Kayla Wilson, senior Adryannah Zavitsky and two standouts from last year’s JV team, Keri Knoor and Laiken Zay.
With so many players back with postseason experience, Smyrna believes this team has a shot at putting together a special season.
After two-straight first round exits in the postseason, the ladies were anxious to get back on the practice fields in preparation for the new season.
“This group of girls, as well as the coaching staff, could not wait to hit the fields again,” said Smyrna Head Coach Nicki Shirey. “With 10 returning players, they all worked hard during the offseason by hitting the gym and joining the indoor track team.”
Along with their offseason bonding with the indoor track team, Coach Shirey says that many on the roster have grown up playing together.
“Coaching this group of girls is an absolute pleasure,” Shirey said. “This is a very talented squad, who all come from different travel ball teams, but have played together since they were very young.”
Having come up together in the sport, they come together again for another season eager to represent their school and community, doing whatever it takes to help their team.
“They realize that representing their hometown is special,” said Shirey. “Being put in a position where you’re needed instead of where they normally play is not an issue for this team.”
Expectations are high for this year’s Smyrna team, though they know it’ll be an uphill battle and that’s just within the tough Henlopen Conference.
Counting Smyrna, seven Henlopen Conference teams earned spots within the DIAA Softball State Tournament last season, including Caesar Rodney, Polytech, Cape Henlopen, Sussex Central, Lake Forest and Sussex Tech who reached the state championship game.
“We’re aiming for the state championship,” Shirey said. “With cohesiveness, powerful bats and fierce defense, they have what it takes to get them deep into the tournament.”
The Lady Eagles open their season this afternoon on the road, taking on Indian River at 4:15 p.m.
After two more road games, (3/24 @ Delmar and 3/28 @ Appoquinimink), Smyrna will play their first home game Friday, March 31 against Cape Henlopen.