It seems like months ago when I?asked John F. Kennedy pitcher Rachel Pico what the team goal was, thinking the obvious answer was to return to the state tournament.
It wasn't. And the goal was very plainly stated.
"We want to graduate at home plate."
While seniors Morgan Piacquadio, CC?Dewees and Pico accomplished the goal by making it to the regional final, the moment was bittersweet as they received their diplomas 15 minutes removed from a 3-1 loss to Crestline Saturday afternoon at Kent State University.
"We really thought we had it, but stupid little things get in the way," Pico said.
Now they know they should have added "after a win" to that goal.
"I said last night, we should have added 'with a win,' " Piacquadio said. "But to do this two years in a row, no one can ask for anything better. I know we said we wanted to graduate on home plate and we did, just not with the outcome we wanted."
The goal to graduate at home plate was set after last season's seniors, J.K. Kolovich and Ali Rossi, received their diplomas after Kennedy defeated Windham in the regional final.
"Win or lose, I'm glad I got to graduate on home plate," Dewees said.
Though graduation and the regional game didn't go the way the Eagles hoped, to this sports writer, it is impressive they even made it back to regionals. Because for awhile, I was skeptical.
After the Eagles fell in last year's state semifinal game against North Lewisburg Triad, a colleague asked me if I thought they would go back to state. Without hesitation I said, 'Yes.'
At that time, they only needed to replace Kolovich and Rossi. But, as we all know, a lot can change in a year.
Kennedy started the season with an entirely new outfield, moving veteran players to the infield and leaving the outfield in the hands of all new players. The roster for Kennedy is 12 players deep, with no junior varsity team. The outfield was rotating for a good part of the season, trying to find the perfect match. They took a few early hits and weren't dominating teams like they did in 2008. It made me think about the words I spoke about a return to state. But, the Eagles battled, because they had goals to accomplish.
"The past two years, we've worked so hard," Pico said. "Most of us are travel ball players, but the ones that aren't ... the beginning of the season you wouldn't think they are the same players, they've made such strides. People don't realize. They see what we've done in the state and they think we're like teams we've played that have 15, 16 players on the roster and you can cut people. And actually we can't. One person gets hurt with us, we're pretty much done."
But the young players stepped up, veteran players took on new roles, and just like that, JFK was back at regionals.
They might not be going back to state. But they can rest assured they have left a legacy in area softball.
In the county, Kennedy is only the fifth school to ever make it to the state softball tournament, which dates back to 1978. The Eagles put up a 35-10 record over the past two seasons, shared a Steel Valley title (which isn't an easy feat when competing with the likes of Ursuline and Mooney), and garnered numerous county, league and state honors.
Though the graduation was not the way they wanted, all three of the seniors were in agreement that the past two seasons for the Eagles was a ride they will not forget in the near future.