05/02/13 — C.B. Aycock softball team exceeds expectations

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C.B. Aycock softball team exceeds expectations

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 2, 2013 1:47 PM

OK, all you "Doubting Thomases" who reside in Pikeville and surrounding communities.

Those anticipated shortcomings that dominated conversations in the offseason never occurred. Time to fess up and apologize to the Charles B. Aycock softball team, which has far exceeded everyone's expectations this season and continued a tradition of excellence in its well-respected program.

The Golden Falcons (12-8 overall) earned a share of the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season title for the third consecutive year and captured their 11th crown overall since the league's inception in 2001-02. That's not too bad for a team that lost five infield starters to graduation.

The returners accepted new roles and helped groom a team that had to adapt to a new coaching philosophy. They eventually hushed those out-spoken critics who predicted they'd finish no higher than third in league play.

"They've grown up a lot this season and worked through a lot," said Golden Falcons assistant coach Emily Jordan. "Now, they're finally peaking and are comfortable at the right time. I don't think many people thought, in the end, this would be the outcome of our conference.

"I'm proud of them for not accepting (what they heard) and for not being complacent. They worked, wanted (to be) number one, and went out and got it."

Aycock launches defense of its tournament championship tonight with a semifinal-round home Cleveland. Should the Golden Falcons and co-champ South Johnston meet in the finals, the winner secures the No. 1 seed for the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

Is it remarkable that Aycock has achieved this status?

Maybe, maybe not.

Four returning starters -- Meredith Burroughs, Cierra Harris, Reagan Herndon and Katie Gay -- have provided solid leadership on and off the field. Senior Taylor Bradshaw has stepped into a starting role along with senior Jenna Van Horn, who returned to softball after sitting out one season.

The Golden Falcons compiled a 4-4 record through mid-March. A first-ever loss to Cleveland and shutout setback at future ECC foe D.H. Conley fueled the team's frustration meter.

Could there have been too much pressure, not so from the coaching staff, but just from program tradition?

It seems, however, that once each player started to accept their respective role and play consistent, the team gained confidence. Burroughs found her swagger inside the pitcher's circle. Herndon matured behind the dish, while Harris and Gay have solidified the infield.

Their teammates have followed their lead.

"The girls have thought about what does the team need and I need to learn how to do this to help the team," CBA head coach Laura Romo said. "That kind of attitude is going to get you far. When you win ballgames, that's icing on the cake.

"But what they've learned and how they've come together as a team, that means more than you can ever imagine. These are wonderful young ladies."

And champions again.