MISSOULA, Mont. - This Thursday in Frenchtown the Lady Broncs will take on Corvallis to not only start another season but to begin their quest for back-to-back class ‘A' state championships on the softball diamond.
"That state championship brought us together so much," says junior Morgan Ray about last year's title win over Northwest rival Polson. "We're like sisters now and it's so good to have that behind our belts. We just feel like we have this connection and it's so great to have it going into this season."
"There's definitely a target on our backs coming in as the defending state champs," says senior first baseman Vanessa Stavish. "Frenchtown softball always has a target on their back."
Coming off a state title feels nice but the Lady Broncs have the same mindset heading into the new season and their goals are very clear.
"Obviously going after the state championship again." – Keegan Wickman
"Well we definitely want to be back in the state championship." – Kayla Blood
"We're definitely setting it high and hoping for another state title." – Vanessa Stavish
"Hopefully get another state championship." – Morgan Ray
"I think having that feeling of the one last year, I know they enjoyed it and I know it was really special to them,' explains Frenchtown head coach Eli Field. "But I think they also understand that doing it again would also be special."
The Lady Broncs return several experienced seniors to this year's team. But it's the junior Morgan Ray who might be the best player in the state after earning the title of Gatorade Player of the Year as only a sophomore last season.
"I've had three state titles and this is the first time that we've had the starting pitcher coming back and that's a really nice feeling going in," explains Field.
"Morgan is great having as an advantage," says senior third baseman Keegan Wickman. When she's out there you know she's going to get it done. She also has another year under her belt."
"It's definitely a stress reliever," agrees senior infielder Kayla Blood. "I mean we don't have to be worried that someone is going to hit a bunch of home runs on us or get a bunch of good base hits you know."
"Everything she has gotten in her life she's deserved," boasts Stavish of her friend and teammate. "She works so hard all the time for us. It's great to have her out here and it is a relief having her on the mound when you're not going to get many girls that can hit that well off of her."
"Sure it's nice to know that she's talented and she's proven and she's had success but my favorite thing right now is how hard she worked in the winter to get even better," says Field.
Frenchtown knows they have all the components they need to compete for another state title. And with the great team chemistry that they always have, they know it will be a fun ride along the way.
"The team chemistry is definitely there," says Blood. "We have a lot of inside jokes; we just have fun at practice. We're serious about the sport but a whole bunch of us have a lot of heart for the team."
"Chemistry I don't think has ever really been a problem out in Frenchtown," explains Wickman. "We've been playing ever since we were little together, especially softball."
"We have every girl out here from the basketball besides one," says Stavish. "We have a couple new girls out here but I don't think it's going to be a problem. I think out chemistry is still going to be very good this year which is a good thing."
The Lady Broncs open up their season at home Thursday night, April 3 against Corvallis at 7:00.