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Cheyenne seniors bask in first postseason trip

Vanessa Sanders and Megan Ingram have played in more than 100 varsity softball games each in their high school careers.

But today the Cheyenne seniors will play in a postseason game for the first time.

The two four-year members of the Desert Shields’ varsity will lead their team onto the field at 4 p.m. today against visiting Tech in the first round of the Division I-A Southern Region tournament. It will be the first postseason softball game since 2003 for Cheyenne (18-12-1).

“We started out not winning a whole bunch of games to winning and making it to the playoffs,” Sanders said. “It finally means something. Now that we’re going somewhere, it will mean a lot for Cheyenne.”

Stuck for years in arguably the state’s toughest league, the Desert Shields took their lumps. In the duo’s first three seasons, Cheyenne went 26-59, including an 11-37 record in Northwest League play. The league routinely had at least five of the top 10 teams in the Southern Nevada coaches poll, including Centennial and Palo Verde, which has won three of the past four Class 4A state titles.

“During games, it was always hard because we were Cheyenne and how people looked at us,” Ingram said. “Now we’ve overcome that, and it’s real now.”

Realignment by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association and the shift to Division I-A came at a perfect time for the Desert Shields, who finished one game behind Faith Lutheran for the Sunset League title.

“Before last year, I told them it was going to be a very difficult year, but if they could play hard and get through this season, next year would be better, I promise,” sixth-year coach Teri Hernandez said. “That’s what kept us going. It’s never easy getting beat by a lot game after game.

“Five years of losing is tough, but one year of winning almost erases that.”

The Desert Shields are more confident and talented this year, too. And they’re getting more quality players to join the team.

Sanders is hitting .674 with eight home runs and 83 RBIs. Sophomore Taylor Cole has driven in 48 runs, and freshman Jahnae Davis 37.

“We have a lot more talent on the team,” Sanders said. “We have a lot of girls who play club ball, girls with some experience. Last year, we didn’t have very many girls like that.”

The region tournament is double elimination, with the champion and runner-up advancing to the state tournament at UNLV.

The Desert Shields would love to be there, but no matter the outcome this week, the seniors think they’ve been a part of something special.

“This is our last year, so we get to leave Cheyenne with our names here for years to come, knowing it was our team that made it to playoffs,” Ingram said.

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.

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