SSHS skipper Jeff Davidson said excitement has filled his program's preseason camp and that players and coaches alike are ecstatic to start a new campaign.
"Everybody is excited that (optional) open-field workouts are over and we're finally getting ready to start the season," Davidson said. "We're just excited that the season is finally here. The kids are working hard. They're doing everything being asked of them. I've already seen a lot of intensity this year. The kids are working on things they need to improve on; so far, so good. As far as work ethic goes, the kids have been doing a great job."
The Cougars open their 2013 schedule in the annual Sacramento preseason tournament Thursday through Saturday. The SSHS crew will play California schools Benicia and Antelope at 5 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. respectively Thursday before wrapping up pool play Friday against Del Oro of Loomis, Calif. at 3:15 p.m. Saturday's bracket play will depend on pool finishes.
Davidson said all 16 players on his roster are anxious to get in some game action and showcase their skills.
"Whenever you get to travel to a tournament in Sacramento, you're excited," Davidson said. "This tournament has a lot of good teams in it from California as well as good teams from Nevada. We're always excited to go down there. We know we'll see good competition. Our coaches get the opportunity to evaluate players on the team and see how they do. I mentioned to the girls, everyone will get a couple games under their belts. Then we'll come home after the tournament, see who did what and really get ready for the season."
Davidson was asked about team strengths and the Cougars coach was quick to say he think he's got a pretty talented team gearing up for the spring.
"We're going to be solid in every aspect," he said. "I think we think have solid pitching. I expect us to play good defense and of course get some timely hitting. I'm looking that we'll have a fairly well-rounded team this year."
In softball, success starts in the circle and the Cougars have key returners ready to pitch. Senior ace Brette Lawrence has signed to play collegiately at Villanova. Sophomore Ally Batastini was the SSHS club's No. 2 hurler a year ago but she steadily improved and was among the North's top pitchers by season's end. Senior Karlie Merritt adds depth to the Cougars' staff.
At the plate, Lawrence and Batastini should give Spanish Springs some pop in the middle of the lineup. All-league players Kelsey Stroshine, Bayley Broadwater and Sidney Sinclair return as well to give the SSHS offense depth.
"I feel all three pitchers we have will compete and will compete hard to get time on the mound," Davidson said. "With 12 returning varsity players, I'm counting on everyone to contribute at the plate. We have team speed and we have power throughout the lineup as well. We have a good mix as far as that goes.
"Everyone is competing in practice to get time on the field during games. From Day 1, we've talked that you have to compete. I feel like all of our kids will compete given the opportunity."
While Davidson has plenty to be positive about while reloading for what many expect to be another stellar season, he knows his team is far from perfect. If he's got a concern about the new year, it's his team's mental focus and preparation.
"We talked yesterday in practice about it," Davidson said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. "One area we need to improve on is our mental approach at the plate, base-running and on defense. The overall mental aspect has got to improve. The girls must know what they're going to do if the ball is hit to them. When they go to the plate, they must have a plan."
Spanish Springs won state titles in 2007, 2008 and 2010, but after standout regular seasons the past two years, it has not gone to state, or even played in a regional final. Despite that, Davidson said the expectations at SSHS don't change.
"The goals are always the same at Spanish Springs High School," he said. "We always want to first of all qualify for regionals. Then of course we want to win the region and see what we can do at the state tournament as well."