The Lady Blue Tide softball team has been one of the brightest spots for the Long County High School athletic program in recent years. They seem determined to toe the same line going into the 2019 season.
Dave Madray is an experienced head coach, but when he came to Ludowici from Wayne County High School in Jesup in April, he was none too familiar with the Lady Tide and their players. Now, after working with them over the summer, he seems comfortable with his group of players and is ready to lead them into the season.
“It’s been really good to get to know them and put some names with some faces and personalities with individuals,” Madray said. “It’s been really helpful and productive as a coach to see how they come together as a team. It’s been a good four months, a productive four months. We’ve made some really good strides...I’m still real optimistic about the season.”
The Lady Blue Tide have three senior players in Ainsley Dawson, Chante Thomas, and Madison Burkhalter as well as a senior manager in Questa Crews on the team for the 2019 season. With that, comes a lot of youth that many would think could negatively affect the team. However, Madray is confident that his younger players will be able to contribute not just in future seasons, but this year as well.
“We have some sophomore players that have got some experience. We have some freshmen players that are lacking the high school game experience,” Madray explained. “But, the ninth and tenth graders collectively bring a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. I see a lot of want-to and that’s good.”
Madray continued to explain watching the younger underclassmen growing their skills as the summer and hopes to see it continue into the latter part of the season.
“But they also bring a lot of skill and I’m seeing them grow and develop just over these past couple of months and I’m excited to see what’s gonna happen in a couple of more months when it really counts.”
In the last few years, the Lady Tide has been right on the edge of making a historic leap into the Elite Eight. In 2017, the team fell to semifinalist Worth County in the first round. In 2018, they advanced to the second round of the state playoffs before again falling short to the Rams in the Sweet Sixteen. Madray knows that it will take a team effort if they want to be playing in Columbus in October.
“It’s gonna take everybody. It’s gonna take all of them to earn ourselves into the state tournament. And it’s certainly going to take all of them working together to advance past the first round, second round and optimistically see our way into a Columbus berth. That’s a goal of ours and we’ve got our eye on that, but I’d hate to voice or pin too much into one particular player or one particular class of players. It’s going to take everybody.”
The Lady Blue Tide will play their annual Blue and White/alumni game on Friday, Aug. 2 and open the regular season on Saturday, Aug. 3 when they travel to Savannah to play Jenkins Warriors in a doubleheader. They will play their first home game on Monday, Aug. 5 against Vidalia.