The Lady Mountaineers have made the state playoffs each of the past two seasons but have been short of being one of the final eight teams that advance to the state tournament in Columbus.
It’s a situation that has left them with a clear goal.
North Murray has a new coach as Steve Granger — he’s a former assistant for softball and led the school’s baseball program before stepping down after the season — takes over, but seven starters return to the lineup. That group includes seniors Kara Deal, a pitcher, Samantha Stafford, who’s behind the plate, and outfielder Sarah Silvers. The rest of the infield is made up of juniors who are also returning starters — Amber Bandy at first base, Kaitlyn Epps at second, Baylee Sutton at shortstop and Megan Pittman at third.
“Especially with us finishing third in the region and qualifying for state, returning that many players will be exciting,” Granger said. “Hopefully it’ll make my life a little easier going into the season.”
In 2011, the Lady Mountaineers reached the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs and were a series win away from advancing to Columbus. In 2012, the team lost in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs despite finishing 12-18 overall. In each of those seasons, North Murray didn’t stand out during the regular season but had a late surge through the region tournament and was one of the league’s four teams to earn a state playoff berth.
The softball program was the second in school history — behind the boys soccer team — to reach a team state tournament. The goal is to become the fourth — behind boys soccer and boys and girls golf — to win a region title.
Like Coahulla Creek, the Lady Mountaineers are in Region 5-3A.
“Our coaching staff has been preaching it to the girls,” Granger said. “We want to get in but also get better each game. We don’t want to have the late charge. We want to get something going early and hope it carries us through.
“Like anything, our goal is to win the region championship, and outside of that make it to Columbus.”
North Murray’s season opens Tuesday with a 5 p.m. game at Union County.