By FREDDY GONZALEZ
SANTA ROSA – As a player, imagine going into a game expecting to lose — anticipating failure.
Now imagine that feeling linger for an entire season. Knowing that every swing you took, every strike you threw and every hit you received brought you one step closer to the only attainable goal within grasp – finishing the season.
For the Lady Warriors, those were the harsh realities of a 2015 season when the team went 13-14 overall and struggled to reach .500.
But what changed?
What made this Santa Rosa squad become the first team in school history to win a softball district championship?
Two words — loyalty and teamwork.
After head coach Erica Molina was replaced in the summer of 2015, the girls fought hard to bring her back, knowing that if they were going to do something unprecedented, they would do it with her at the helm. No one else.
In the end, they succeeded.
The first victory of their historic 2016 season was made without a bat or a glove, but rather, off the field, using the power of unity and teamwork.
“We wanted to prove to everyone that we needed her,” said senior Jazzlynn Leeandra Robles. “We had to fight very hard to get her back.”
It was a victory for girls, but for Molina as well.
The girls got their coach, and Molina got her team back.
But that was only the first step.
“At the beginning of the season I told them that I wanted them to win district so bad,” she said. “But at the end of the day what I want doesn’t matter. I told them ‘you can win the first ever district title if you do three things’ believe in yourselves, trust in each other and work hard.
“When I first took over two years ago I knew it was going to be a process and I knew that in our third year we were going to be a strong team, and everything came together.”
First came the 17-1 victory against district opponent Falfurrias, then a 6-1 win over Monte Alto. But it wasn’t until a 5-4 victory against District 32-3A rival Lyford that the team knew they had a shot to make history.
This year, the Lady Warriors are 15-5 overall and 8-0 in District 32-3A. And while the success they’ve had so far can be attributed to litany of things, there is no doubt that wining district was important on a number of levels.
For instance, this year marks the 10th year anniversary of the program’s existence and achieving something that never been done is a nice way celebrate it.
“Wining a district title in softball is something that’s never been done here before and I want them to build a tradition,” said Molina. “I want the girls to be excited for their own programs, not just the boys program.”
However the excitement has already caught on, and most players remember where they were when they first heard the news, that Lyford’s loss was a win for them.
“When I heard the news I was actually cleaning my room and I just threw up my hands and yelled ‘We’re district champs!’” said Robles. “My whole family was happy.”
“I was actually at the Lyford game, but I had to leave early because my little brother had a baseball game,” added sophomore Mariah Contreras. “But one of my friends parents texted me that they had lost and you don’t know how good that felt.
“It’s lifted up my spirits just to know that we finally accomplished what we worked hard for all season. And it felt really good.”
But the job isn’t finished.
The Lady Warriors’ new goal is to go undefeated in district action. With one more game left in the regular season schedule, it’s no surprise that it comes down to Friday’s game against Lyford.
“We go into our games with a lot of confidence now, last year it wasn’t like that,” said Contreras. “We know how to work together now and we know that we can rely on each other.”