By Bryan Davis
Everything the Lady Eagles of Hebron Christian School practiced for came down to the North State Tournament and their 1-0 win against Bayou. The tougher than usual schedule their head coach, Cass Tapley, had arranged, prepared them for the toughest battle of their season.
It was the first time the Lady Colts had fallen in a North State Tournament game in five years, and it was done by perhaps the most unexpected bunch. Hebron has been to North State a number of times, but they had never earned a spot in Ridgeland, at the State Tournament. Nor were they known for beating the state’s great powerhouses.
That all changed three weeks ago, and now the Lady Eagles are a bunch that, despite losing seven seniors, are expected to be a threat in the North State again next year.
“I hope everybody thinks that,” Tapley said. “We’re planning on being there. We’re losing a bunch of seniors who set that standard. They raised the bar.”
Some of the 2010 Hebron greats are moving on, with names like Cathryn Moore and Magen Tapley graduating in the Spring, but don’t be fooled. Tapley is going to be coaching a solid crew next year.
Even though seven girls are going to be missing from the lineup, there’s a talented young mix coming up, but the most notable returning player is pitcher Chloe Tapley, who tossed so many great ball games in 2010. Behind her will be solid group of fielders.
“Defensively, we’re probably just as good next year,” Tapley said. “I haven’t played the big games with them though.”
When it came to the big games this year, Tapley stuck with his faithful core, that included the seven seniors. During tournament play, Tapley said those girls toughed out many an injury to stay in there until the last.
One of those was an injury to shortstop Megan Tapley, who had her teeth knocked loose on one play. She stayed in the tournament until the last pitch though.
Tapley is hoping that will rub off on the young group coming up.
“During the tournament, it was the toughness,” Tapley said. “Skinned knees, loose teeth, they were still in there playing.”
With the team making their first stop at state, Tapley says he hopes that memory carries over into 2011 for the younger kids.
“When you’re so young, I don’t know if you even think about it,” Tapley said. “I hope it’s a part of their expectation. I hope they expect to win a district. I hope not going to the playoffs doesn’t enter into their psyche.”
The teams in academy ball will be reclassified for next year. Tapley, who scheduled a tough group of games for the Diamond Eagles in 2010, hopes to have a similar 2011 season.
“It’s the only way we’re going to get better,” Tapley said.
Hebron finished 8-0 in conference play this year.