HURRICANE, W.Va. - The stars seemed to be aligning for Hurricane last year.
The Redskins won their first Mountain State Athletic Conference softball championship and set the school record for wins. Then in the postseason it all came crashing down to Earth like a meteor burning through the atmosphere as they failed to advance past sectional play.
Hurricane's players have not forgotten that feeling of heartache and helplessness and made a vow to do everything in their power to not flame out again.
So far the Redskins are carrying through on their promise, opening the season by winning their first five games and earning a No. 2 ranking, the school's highest, in the Class AAA state coaches association preseason poll.
"That loss really killed us,'' senior catcher Linzie Reynolds said of the sectional failure during a break in practice Tuesday in the Hurricane High gym. "It was heartbreaking. I think it surprised a lot of people. They expected a lot more out of us.
"My team, seeing them hurt, it was the worst feeling in the world and hopefully I don't have to do that this year. I think we can only build from it. I think we've become a lot closer. We realized we needed to pull together and work harder. If you want to be the best you have to overcome many obstacles. We go into every game ready to work.''
The Redskins began making amends right after last season ended with the team getting together for summer and fall ball and voluntary workouts this winter.
"It definitely lit a fire under everybody,'' said senior Haley Byrd, who plays first and third base. "It really did help us in the offseason. We were a lot more driven.
"I think everyone came out and worked harder. I felt prepared for this year. We had a lot of freshman starters and they have that experience under their belts now. We're strong all the way around.''
Several players made personal sacrifices.
"I decided not to play basketball so I could focus on softball this winter,'' said sophomore second baseman Madison Casto. "I worked out and had hitting lessons.
"We have been really focused to drive ourselves more and push ourselves more. Just to be smarter and better players. We have to think we're going to lose every day.''