Olympus softball coach Cyndee Bennett knew the hardest aspect of helping her team to upset perennial softball power Murray in region play would be convincing her players they could compete with the Spartans.
"The goal all season has been to make sure they know they're good, that they believe they can play with anyone," said Bennett of the Titans, who did what many thought impossible this season by handing Murray its first region loss in recent memory. "You always try to do that, but the difference is that this year they really believe in themselves."
It helps when the players have a lot of faith in their experienced coach and pitchers Carly Duckworth, a sophomore, and Josie Thamert, a junior. Sophomore twins Kelsie Webster, catcher, and Krystal Webster, first base, as well as freshman shortstop Kelsey Larsen and junior centerfielder Kirsten Schiffler bring athleticism and intelligence to the field for the Titans, who face a tough Timpview squad in the first round of the 4A tournament today.
"We're a pretty young team," Bennett said. "But they worked hard all year, and after a lot of blood, sweat and tears in practices, they believe they deserve to win."
The brackets will be interesting from the start with potential for upsets from the opening round. Likely the most interesting first-round match-up will be Cyprus vs. Snow Canyon, both teams that have spent time in the rankings this season.
Most coaches advise their players to leave nothing to chance. The Tooele Buffaloes found out why last week when, after tying for the region title with Springville, they lost the coin toss.
"Tooele is the best No. 2 seed out there," said Dixie coach Randy Simkins. "But then again, Springville might even be better."
Roy and Bountiful also had to flip a coin for seeding, and the Braves won the toss. That makes for some interesting second-round match-ups and also indicates the parity in 4A this season. If both Tooele, ranked fourth, and Dixie, ranked No. 1, win their games Tuesday, they'll play each other on Thursday. Roy could face Murray, if they both win their first-round contests, which will prove challenging.
Second-ranked Springville takes on Box Elder today and the Red Devils will rely on pitcher Sarah Clark, as well as players like Aria Agle and Kandice Kirkham. The Red Devils are coming off wins over Tooele in region play and 5A's Spanish Fork in non-region action. Third-ranked Murray will take on Sky View, a team that is much better than its record. The Spartans will depend on players like Monica Moffitt, Ciera Nordin, Taylor Gallegos, Lyndi Miller, Jackie Cooley and Andy Jorgensen.
Fifth-ranked Bountiful will play West today and will likely rely on the consistency and competitiveness of players like catcher Kim Weese and pitcher Jessie Martin.
The top-ranked Flyers are anchored by two talented pitchers in Sheila Gelter and Delaney Griffiths, both of whom earned eight wins this season. They, like most of the top squads, have ample offense."We've really put it together lately," said Simkins. "We've been hitting the ball pretty well ... If our pitching holds up, we should be able to compete. I think with all of the new teams in the classification it could be pretty wide open because we all don't know each other that well. There are going to be some pretty interesting first-round games."