REGION SOFTBALL: Cheyenne embraces long-awaited playoff berth
May 5, 2013 - 8:15 pm
Vanessa Sanders and Megan Ingram have played in more than 100 varsity softball games in their high school careers.
But on Monday, the Cheyenne seniors will do something neither ever has done before and likely ever will forget — play in a postseason game.
The two four-year members of the Desert Shields’ varsity will lead their team onto the field at 4 p.m. Monday against visiting Tech in the opening round of the Division I-A Southern Region tournament.
It will be Cheyenne’s (18-12-1) first postseason softball game since 2003.
“It feels great,” said Sanders. “We started out not winning a whole bunch of games to winning and making it to the playoffs. It finally means something. Now that we’re going somewhere, it will mean a lot for Cheyenne.”
Stuck for years in arguably the toughest league in the state, the Desert Shields took their lumps.
In the duo’s first three seasons, the Desert Shields were a combined 26-59, including an 11-37 mark 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 won three of the last four Class 4A state titles.
“During games, it was always hard because we were Cheyenne and how people looked at us,” said Ingram. “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,” said sixth-year head coach Teri Hernandez. “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 more talented this year, as well. And they’re getting more quality players to join the team.
Sanders is hitting .674 with eight homers and 83 RBIs. Nine other players have knocked in at least 10 runs, including sophomore Taylor Cole (48 RBIs) 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 runnerup both advancing to the state tournament at UNLV.
It’s a spot the Desert Shields would love to be in, but no matter the outcome this week, the seniors feel 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.