Nobody was more devastated when COVID hit last March than the Shadow Creek softball team. Several seniors lost their chances at a final hurrah, and the entire team was robbed of the potential for a return to the playoffs after a strong start to the season.
The Lady Sharks trained together all summer to prepare for the school season, and the girls worked harder than ever in the offseason. After the conclusion of their annual boot camp, the Sharks are ready to face their first opponent and officially kick off the season.
Head Coach Kelly Bembry has spearheaded the softball program since the school's opening, leading the Lady Sharks to consecutive playoff appearances. The experienced coach takes discipline and the true meaning of a team very seriously, and anyone who has seen the Sharks in action can confirm that this sets them above and beyond.
VYPE caught up with Coach Bembry to ask about the circumstances of this season:
VYPE: How has the cancellation of last spring's season motivated the girls for this year?
BEMBRY: The cancellation of last year's season was devastating, to say the least. We were coming off a tournament where we went 6-0, and just beat the Angleton Wildcats in a seven-inning thriller. Things were clicking on all cylinders and then boom, we all had to be quarantined. My kids didn't stop working with the notion that they would let us resume, which they did not. We went to work all summer and all fall and the kids came back with a chip on their shoulder. Our theme this year is 'Unfinished Business' and I expect them to take out the frustrations of last season ending the way it did on our opponents.
VYPE: What is your main philosophy, and how do you see it playing out this season?
BEMBRY: My main philosophy is to outwork our opponents. We will outwork you in the classroom, outwork you on the track, outwork you in the weight room, outwork you on the softball field, and outwork you at being great individuals. My kids trust and believe in these ideas and have embraced the true aspect of work.
VYPE: What are your main expectations for this year? Any particular goals?
BEMBRY: Our expectation for this year, as it is EVERY year, is to win our last game. Period.
This season means everything to the athletes—a chance to improve, a chance to excel, and a chance to finish what they started last year. If anything, last season's cancellation has changed the perspective of the girls to treat every step on that field as their last.
Junior outfielder Jillian Gutierrez, a dominating defensive force in the outfield and at the plate for the Sharks, said as much: "The cancellation of last season taught me to be grateful for every opportunity. When I step on the field, I want to take full advantage of the place I'm in at that time. Not being able to play the last few games with my senior teammates from the previous year was absolutely heartbreaking because no one has ever worked harder than us. From then on I've truly been dedicated to being in the moment and taking in every last second."
Every spring sport felt this particular heartbreak, but Shadow Creek did not let it hinder their competitive edge and team improvement. "Our amazing coach prepared us with cross country, F45 workouts, and even marine training to install a winning mindset," said Gutierrez.
Coach Bembry's athletes know the true definition of work from her intense training methods, but if you ask any of them, they will all tell you that they love the push to improve and they love the challenge Coach Bembry issues to push themselves to the limit to reach their highest potential.
Coach Bembry's athletes also know the true definition of a family.
"This team means a lot more than softball, this is my family," said Gutierrez.
Holly Vollman, a junior utility whose versatility is one of the Sharks' weapons, agreed, "What makes this team special is how much of a family we are and the tradition we've started to build. When I was a freshman, there were four other freshmen starters. Now, we're juniors and we have begun our winning tradition. This team is my family and that field is where I feel most at home."
Both Gutierrez and Vollman personally want to improve their batting averages and maintain their defensive force, but their main goals lie with the team. Gutierrez and Vollman want to set the tone for upcoming years by proving everyone who doubts them wrong as they move up to Class 6A. And of course, the entire team is striving to win district and return to the playoffs for a deep run. This team counts on each other to always give their best. If they can keep it up, this team has a bright season ahead of them.
The Sharks are just as talented as they are dedicated, so this is definitely a team to keep an eye on. One thing's for certain: do not underestimate the Sharks as they rise to class 6A.