In four years, Mountain Pointe High School’s girls softball team’s three seniors have experienced just about everything Arizona high school softball has to offer.
With the playoffs looming at the end of April, and the team again right on the cusp of making another run, the group is determined to reach the postseason one final time.
Danielle Farinas, Veronica Chavez and Ilyiana Vacaneri are four-year starters for the Pride and have seen everything from a 2015 playoff run to blowing six straight games in 2017 and missing the postseason.
Assistant coach Rick Quinn has been part of the rollercoaster, having coached with the team since 2003. He said he and the three seniors have shared great memories on the field and that the girls will have left a legacy by the time they shed their Pride uniforms for the last time.
“They bring an element to the game that usually they play very hard. They know the game well, and they’re experienced and talented. All three have been great for us,” he said.
Beside being among the most-talented and athletic players on the Pride’s roster throughout their tenure – they are among the team’s top hitters and fielders – Vacaneri said that she has always tried to bring positivity to the group and a fun-loving attitude.
“We were always like a rock to a lot of the girls when they were down or needed advice or something,” she said. “Even when we were freshmen, we still were the group that the other girls came to talk to about strategy, and we were always there to cheer them up and make them laugh in practice.”
Asked what she hoped her legacy would be once she is gone from Mountain Pointe and playing at the college level, Farinas said she hopes she has laid down a foundation for the team to keep winning after she’s gone.
As a starting pitcher leading the team in strike-outs and wins, and boasting the team’s highest batting average, it is asking a lot for the younger girls to step up and reach for continued success, but she believes her Pride teammates are up to the task.
“We have a great group of girls. The next few years are going to be really good for them. The players that are going to be in our positions next year will be great and they’ll continue,” she said.
For the remainder of their tenure, though, the three seniors’ focus is solely on making a final push to the postseason.
After injuries ravaged Mountain Pointe’s roster in 2017, Farinas said, it was disappointing to not make the playoffs last season. But has her mind set on returning to the glory she and the other seniors experienced in their first year, and maybe even past that point.
“I hope to take us farther than we’ve ever been. Each year we’ve had a team that could get to playoffs, and last year we fell short with a lot of injuries,” she said. “But this year, we want to make playoffs for the other girls and for us, too. That’s really important for all of us.”
The remaining six games on the Pride’s schedule are not easy, though, with Mountain Pointe playing twice against Gilbert, Corona del Sol and Desert Vista – all of whom are vying for their own spots in the playoffs.
Chavez said the key to winning at this point of the year is all mental, rather than just fine-tuning strategy and skills.
Though several of the team’s young players are still adjusting to playing out of their normal positions, and the team is still working out some kinks in the roster, she is certain the team has enough talent to make the playoffs – provided everybody remains focused and aggressive and not be afraid to take risks.
“Sometimes all of us get scared when it’s a big play or something that we’ll make a mistake, and we just have to try and not think about it, but really just do it,” she said. “It comes down to a positive mentality. If we have that, I think we’ll be good.”