04/17/09 — Trojan seniors want nothing less than league championship

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Trojan seniors want nothing less than league championship

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 17, 2009 1:47 PM

Twice Mount Olive College has walked up the steps toward a Conference Carolinas softball tournament championship.

Twice the door has been slammed shut.

Will the Trojans walk through this time?

A top-three finisher in regular-season play each of the past three seasons, Mount Olive will try again this weekend. The second-seeded Trojans oppose either Lees-McRae or Anderson in quarterfinal-round game this afternoon at Byerly Park in Hartsville, S.C.

The double-elimination tournament concludes Sunday with the winner earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.

"I think the last few games we have come together more," said right-handed hurler Jenny Jackson, a senior from Fremont. "We're not being as selfish, I guess. Everybody is playing for each other and not just themselves."

Mount Olive (23-16-1 overall) carries a season-best, seven-game win streak into the tournament. Limestone (S.C.) is the No. 1 seed and defending champion Pfeiffer University is seeded third in the 11-team field.

The Trojans emerged the tournament runners-up last season and claimed third two years ago.

"The sky's the limit," said seventh-year MOC head coach Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham. "Hopefully, we're going into conference (tournament) play with our hearts and the attitude to win it."

Jackson leads the MOC offense with five home runs, while fellow senior Kat Cahoon is batting a crisp .406 with a team-leading 43 hits. Senior Anna Turvin is 3-4 in the pitcher's circle with a 2.59 earned run average.

Karen Thornton and Morgan Whaley, who round out the senior class, have combined for 22 hits and nine RBI in limited action this season.

"Those five seniors mean a lot to the program, have done a lot for us and they're all so different," said Higginbotham. "Kat is fast, Karen is versatile, Jenny has been a season changer and Anna does what she always does when she steps on the mound.

"Morgan has been the emotional driver."

The quintet has guided Mount Olive to nearly 120 victories and helped the program establish itself among the league's elite teams. The Trojans obtained a national ranking in the fall, but tumbled in early spring due to injuries to their key players.

But Cahoon says the team has rebounded well.

"I am very excited about how we're looking right now," said Cahoon, who received a marriage proposal -- and accepted -- from her long-time boyfriend Andrew Alphin on Senior Day.

"The best thing is we're coming together with our hitting. I honestly think we want it and we're going to go after it."

And finally rip the door to a tournament championship off its hinges.