A couple weeks ago, Woodinville coach Dani Weir passed out questionnaires to her players. It was part of an annual effort to gauge their goals heading into the new softball season.
One aspect of it caused her to furrow a brow.
“The first thing I noticed was the difference from last year,” she said. “Everyone’s goal last year was to win State. This year, only one person wrote down “Win State”. Yes, we have a few key players gone, but it certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t have a shot at State and a shot at that title.”
The departed players Weir mentioned included superstar pitcher Madi Schreyer (now at Stanford), and all stars Emily Jackson and Alex Boyd.
But Weir is undeterred.
“I don’t want to say that the results were discouraging, but it was like `C’mon guys!’ We can’t just look at this like Madi and the others are gone and we can’t win this thing anymore. We’ve won it with them and we’ve fallen short with them. Everyone holds a piece of the puzzle, and if one person doesn’t show up, then we don’t have a full puzzle.’
“The players need to know there are lots of different ingredients that can create a successful recipe, if you will.”
But what persists is the tenacious spirit running through this prominent Woodinville program. From the 2012 team that went 26-0 and won the State Championship, to last year’s squad that went 24-3 and finished third in State. The returning players fully embrace the work ethic and fighting spirit established by years of success.
“They’ve been the most diligent in this off season that I’ve seen,” Weir said. “They’ve been coming in once or twice a week to hit or to workout. All of that work has built up the anticipation to get out here and get going.”
As Weir heads into her second season as head coach, she has tweaked her managerial philosophy.
“We were living up to (the standard of) being undefeated last year,” she said. “This year the goal isn’t the need to go undefeated. The goal will be to groom the roster from top to bottom. And to give the girls their opportunities and make sure that whenever I call upon somebody off the bench, that they are ready and not nervous because they’ve gotten more experience than before.
“Looking back at last year, I kept my top nine out there too much of the time. I want to start using more of my bench in a strategical manner.”
Opening Day for the Lady Falcons is March 17th at Todd Beamer High School. The home opener is March 19th at 4 p.m., when Woodinville hosts Monroe.
“We’re going to have to work together and let everyone know that we’ve got each other’s back,” Weir said. “Yes, some of the girls are feeling like they have big shoes to fill — and they do. But it’s our goal to make it as a challenge for them to rise up and carry the team.
“It’s going to take time. But from what I’ve seen from practice and tryouts, the girls are geared up and ready to go.”