Roughly 33 possible Liberty County Lady Panthers stepped onto the softball diamond on the first day of tryouts Monday evening.
Head coach Jerome Standard, assistant coach Adrian Chapple and junior varsity head coach Kristina Johnson were pleased with the number of girls interested in joining the squad and happy to see familiar faces among the crowd.
"We have quite a few kids returning," Standard said. "Charlee Coursey is back behind the plate and she is one of the best catchers in the region from last year’s crew. Dominique Sibley is back. Even though Jordan Strubble didn’t get a chance to pitch with us last season, she was with us and traveled with us as our backup pitcher so she has experience and she is back.
"Stephanie Cedola and Karen Donaldson are back and those are two good infielders. Desiree Garcia, who can play infield or outfield, is back. And we have a multitude of JV players coming back."
Standard lost starters Staci Stevens, Tyshunn Wiliams, Nazarene Hines, Elyssa Lemapu and Cassie Standard after last season. Williams and Hines are headed to college on track scholarships and Standard signed to play softball at Savannah State University.
All five players were key to the Lady Panthers success last season, taking them to the Southern Section finals and finishing the 2008 season in third for region 3-AAA.
Among the skilled positions hardest to fill was the void left by Standard on the mound. However coach Standard said Strubble took it upon herself to prepare by playing a lot of travel softball through the summer.
"She pitched for us a bit during pre-season and she did a lot of travel ball during the summer. So she’s played against some of the kids we are going to be playing against," he said. "She has a good drop ball and I’m hoping she’s developed her pitches.
"Kanae (Gordon) has pitched a little bit and even Dominique (Sibley) has pitched a little so we have three and we have some new faces out here from our basketball program so you never can tell. They might be capable of coming out here and learning how to pitch."
Standard said having multi-sport athletes on the squad could provide the extra push the girls need to stay on track for another shot at a state title.
"If you take a kid who is a gamer, a kid who is highly competitive, if they’re competitive in one sport it’s going to carry over to another sport," he said. "If they have that edge or I-want-to-win attitude you can see it. And that is really what we want to instill in our players. Go after it and give it everything you have."
See Friday’s Courier for a complete varsity and JV schedule.