The Silex Owl softball team is looking to make it to the Final Four of the state tournament this season after reaching the state quarterfinals last season.
The Owls finished last season 20-3. They won the district title and lost to St. Elizabeth 7-3 in the state quarterfinals. Although the Owls lost a few senior contributors, assistant softball coach Robert James believes the team is in good shape heading into this season.
“The hope is that we’ll learn from that,” James said. “We did not play our best game in that quarterfinal game. Not to take anything away from St. Elizabeth, they were very good, but we can play with that team and so the hope is to win a district title, get to a sectional, get to a quarterfinal. Maybe push through and get to the Final Four.”
Senior Sara Grateke also believes the postseason experience the team gained last season will help in their quest to reach the state semifinals this season. She cited the pressure-type games the team has already been through.
“Now that we’ve been through that once, we’ll be better this time,” Grateke said.
James, who is also the head varsity girls basketball coach, has liked the team’s participation in summer workouts. He sees the same commitment with the student-athletes as he saw 20 years ago when he first worked at Silex. He worked at Silex for 11 years before moving to Winfield High School for eight years. He returned to Silex last season.
“You go to the gym and you see the banners,” James said. “There’s a lot of banners to prove that the extra work that they’ve put in has really pushed us over the top. I don’t see us having a lot of the success in the past or in the future without that.”
James noted they had 26 athletes at an early morning workout in July. He credited the parents of Silex student-athletes. The parents do a good job of raising children in the area, he said. The athletes understand what commitment is and what hard work looks like, James said.
Junior softball player Abagail Mooney believes the team made good progress over the course of summer workouts as they prepared for the season.
“We have already picked up where we left off last season and we’ve already gotten better,” Mooney said.
Many of the softball athletes also play other sports at Silex, which has about 150 students in the high school. Grateke, along with Abagail Mooney, Maci Mooney and Karlie Ellis, all play softball, basketball and run track. All four of the athletes agree playing multiple sports helps them be prepared to go from one sport to the next. They also see benefits with having many of the same teammates in multiple sports.
“During softball season, we don’t do as much basketball,” Maci Mooney said. “But in the summer, you’re still working on skills and you’re not just not doing anything for nine months.”
James believes the variety of sports in which Silex athletes participate makes them a well-rounded athlete. It also shows them the importance of being a good teammate.
“They just get so used to being around each other,” James said. “They’re around each other all the time. The family part of it, it’s not something you just label ‘family.’ It truly is. They spend as much time as they probably do with their family. I know I do. So you’re just around each other a lot. You learn how to work with each other and you go through the bumps and bruises and the good stuff, too.”