‘New Year, New Team’: Lady Dogs not relying on past for repeat

WHITE HALL — Nine of White Hall’s softball players were a part of last year’s 5A championship victory, so the Lady Bulldogs will carry that experience with them on their way back to the University of Arkansas’ Bogle Park this weekend.

They’ve also found some similarities to last year’s road to glory in this year’s run — like their opponents. Greenbrier will mark the third opponent White Hall has faced in both postseasons.

“I think it helped because we did see them last year,” coach Terri Smith said. “We kind of know what to expect. When you don’t ever see them, you go in there wide-eyed like, what’s going to happen? I think it helps some.”

It also helped White Hall has won each time, keeping pitcher Sydnee Clark undefeated in seven state tournament games.

“Every time we win a game, it makes the girls feel more confident.”

If logic is meant to continue, White Hall will defeat Greenbrier in their 5:30 p.m. Saturday showdown in Fayetteville. But the Lady Bulldogs (23-5) are not relying on logic.

“This is a new year, new team,” White Hall senior Rachel Box said. “It’s kind of our thing this year. Every practice we work hard. We’re not playing the same team; it will be a different game. You have to prepare to our strengths and weaknesses and make our weaknesses stronger.

“Last year’s last year. It was a great way to end our season and it was even better that we both, the boys (White Hall baseball team) and the girls, won. But you can’t live in the past. You’ve got to strive for a better future.”

That’s the attitude the Lady Bulldogs have taken from the start of this season. Yet, the path to Fayetteville has reflected a strikingly similar postseason to that of 2012.

White Hall played Greene County Tech again in the first round. The game was stopped last Thursday night during White Hall’s half of the fourth inning, and the Lady Bulldogs had to hold off the Lady Eagles for a 5-3 victory in Hope when it resumed the next morning.

“They (stopped) it in the middle of our inning when we were up to bat and doing really well,” Smith said. “… To finish it 5-3 and hold them to nothing else, that helped with their confidence. They know being state champs, coming back, you always have a target. Everyone always cheers for the other team.”

Then it was Alma, whom White Hall did not play last year. In a 9-0 win, Abby Weaver provided some of the offensive power in the form of two home runs, and Clark belted another, going 3 for 4 in the game.

After that, only Vilonia stood in White Hall’s way of returning to Bogle Park. But like the year before in Fayetteville, the Lady Bulldogs downed the Lady Eagles 5-2, thanks in part to Weaver’s 3-for-3 hitting with another homer.

Box said the similarities in White Hall’s 2012 and 2013 state tourney opponents were weird, but added the familiarity helped.

“I think it helped, but I think each team was different this year,” she said. “It was different games, but it helped kind of knowing what to expect.”