First-year teams generally struggle just to be competitive.
Winning more than 10 games and qualifying for the postseason in a team's debut year, and with no seniors on the roster, are usually pipe dreams.
Desert Oasis' softball team shot down that theory last year and could be primed for even more success this season.
The Diamondbacks return nine letter winners from a team that started 4-16 before rallying to finish 13-22 overall and placed third with an 11-5 mark in the Southwest League.
"We took our lumps early, but we had some good kids that were willing to learn and work hard, and it paid off for us in the end," coach Jerome Streets said. "We gained more confidence as we went along."
The Diamondbacks welcome back their top five hitters, top two pitchers and maybe something more important -- a team chemistry that developed midway through last season.
"We have the biggest advantage in all of Las Vegas because last year we were the underdog, but we came together as a team so much in the middle of the season," senior Morgan Hughes said. "We're a family now. The only thing we need through the whole year is the family mentality."
Improved defense and a few more timely hits wouldn't hurt, either.
"We have to play better defense than we played last year, and we're going to have to hit a lot better," Streets said. "We're a year more mature, so I think the defense will be better."
The Diamondbacks will start the season with 12 players -- nine with varsity experience and three freshmen -- on their roster. With the exception of outfielder Cheree Austin, every player has at least two positions listed next to her name.
"There won't be any complacency," Streets said. "Whoever is working the hardest is going to get the playing time. These kids have to know that when they put in their maximum effort all the time they're as competitive as anyone in town. We don't have a lot of superstars. We have a lot of blue-collar kids who have to work at it."
Streets said Hughes and classmate Andrea McIntosh are two of his team's leaders. Hughes will pitch and see time at first base, in the outfield and as a designated player. McIntosh is a utility player.
"Sometimes with your leadership, it doesn't show up in the statistics, but nobody in this town works harder than Andrea McIntosh," Streets said. "Morgan is the mama hen; when she says to do something, every other kid does what she says."
Also returning are sophomore catcher/shortstop Emily Heinz and junior first baseman/outfielder Nicole Liakos.
Heinz led the team with a .426 average, and Liakos was the top run producer with 26 RBIs.
Junior shortstop/third baseman Holly O'Hara is back after hitting .324 with two home runs.
Hughes and sophomore Lenzi Cram saw the bulk of the time in the pitching circle last year and are expected to be joined by sophomore Briona Santovito and freshman CJ Wilson.
"We're really excited to come in and play," McIntosh said. "We still have all that energy and enthusiasm."
Contact reporter Bartt Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5230.