The second-ranked Eagles will be making their fourth consecutive state tournament appearance at Lagoon Park, having won the title in 2010 as a Class 3A team.
In last year’s appearance, Sumiton Christian was eliminated by eventual state champion Hatton 3-0 — an outcome that has been a source of focus and motivation for coach Jessica Aderholt’s team.
“I’m not exactly sure where our minds were last year — as we certainly weren’t in the correct mindset that it takes to be a state champion,” Aderholt said. “We’ve been talking a lot about our focus this week and through many points this year — and trying to get tougher on ourselves to be better prepared. Outside of American Christian Academy, we haven’t seen any of the teams that are in the tournament this year, so being mentally ready is as important as being physically ready.”
Sumiton Christian moved through last weekend’s North-Central Regional Tournament with ease — outscoring their opponents 46-4 and capturing their third-straight region championship.
The Lady Eagles (49-15) take on Houston Academy in this year’s state tournament opener at 9 a.m. Friday.
For senior T’Ebonie Tanner — who has been in the Eagles’ program since her seventh-grade year, being a part of two-state championship teams would be the perfect way to end her final season as a Sumiton Christian player.
“The chance to win a championship is everything to me,” Tanner said.
“Before coach Aderholt took over our program, I could only dream about winning a state title, but when we won our championship in 2010, I was so excited about coming back to have an opportunity to win another one. It’s not a right to compete for a state title, it’s a privilege to have the chance to do so that’s given to only a few teams. That’s why we are going to work hard to make the most of it.”
Fellow senior Cadi Oliver, who joined the Eagles in her sophomore year, feels that the team’s experience in not only competing in the state tournament, but also capturing a title has helped prepare them for the atmosphere that accompanies the big-game environment.
“I feel like it calms our nerves, because we see it as another tournament — not the state championship tournament,” said Oliver, who was the state tournament MVP in 2010. “In a title game, the nervousness will obviously be there, but experience and knowledge is the best teacher in those situations. I know there are a few teams that have not been to Lagoon Park and are making their first appearance — it’s very different than playing for an area or region title — and I think our previous experience at state will help us.”
A second title in four years is also a goal for senior catcher Clara Bowen.
“It would be awesome to go out with a state championship. That’s what you want to do — end on a high note. There are only six teams in the state that get to do that,” Bowen said.
Other 2A first-round games set for Friday are: Lexington vs. Leroy at 9 a.m., American Christian Academy vs. Mobile Christian at 9 a.m. and Goshen vs. No. 1 Hatton at 10:30 a.m.