A lot more to prove


News staff writer

May 13, 2006

They are 14-0 in the league and owners of the IMC. They’ve won 20 in a row and are 22-1 overall. They’ve outscored their opponents 193 runs to 21 in 14 shut-outs and have ended almost a dozen games by the mercy rule.

They are the Hood River Valley Eagles softball team, and they are barreling toward the state playoffs with the momentum of a freight train.

Team unity, hard work, standout pitching, tenacious defense and domination at bat have been the themes this season for the girls, who have played like state-champion contenders since game one, against Gresham High School.

And today, with nothing left to prove in the IMC, the girls are ready for what lies ahead in the 4A playoffs.

Behind the team are five seniors: Stefanie Draper, Chelsey Elliott, Rochelle Friend, Meghan Flem and Kayla Monahan. Approaching the end of their final season as Eagles, the seniors took time to answer the following questions:

HR News: This is the end of your final season as an Eagle. How do you feel about that?

Draper: I’m sad it’s coming to an end. I want us to finish strong and I want the younger girls to carry out the team next year how we did this year.

Elliott: I’m really sad about it being the end. But I will always have good memories.

Friend: I’m really sad. I’m going to miss playing with these girls so much.

Flem: I’m going to miss being a part of the Eagle softball program. It’s been a great four years.

Monahan: It’s really sad knowing that my Eagle softball career is coming to an end. I have learned so much over the past four years playing softball as an Eagle. It’s going to be weird not playing next year for HRV, Huk and Smitty.

HR News: What kind of bond do you feel with the other seniors?

Draper: We’re all sisters.

Elliott: We are as close as sisters. I love them all.

Friend: I love them all so much.

Flem: We spend as much time together off the field as we do on it. We are as close as sisters.

Monahan: All of us seniors are sisters. We know and read each other’s minds.

HR News: Undefeated champs of the IMC your senior year. How does it feel?

Draper: We’re not undefeated yet. It’s going to be something special for everyone.

Elliott: Well … not yet. But if we do, and I have a lot of confidence in the team that we will, it will be a very cool experience for me. We all have worked hard for it.

Friend: Undefeated … knock on wood. Being league champs feels good, but we haven’t really had time to let it sink in. We still have a lot more to accomplish.

Flem: Well, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It feels wonderful to finally be on top.

Monahan: Honestly, being the IMC champs really hasn’t hit me. People have told me congratulations, and I think to myself, “Oh yeah, sweet.” But other than that, it hasn’t hit me. We still have unfinished business to take care of.

HR News: What aspect of the game do you think the team is strongest in?

Draper: Mentally being there for each other and encouraging each other no matter what. Not many teams have that.

Elliott: I would say hitting because, as Smitty would say, we are all powerful women. Our 1-9 hitters can all hit the ball well.

Friend: As a team we hit really well. Everybody contributes. Also how encouraging everybody is to each other.

Flem: Our team’s strongest aspect is our hitting. Our 1-9 are strong, and a lot of teams don’t have that depth.

Monahan: I feel our team is equally strong offensively and defensively. We need to stay focused and support each other at all times.

HR News: What do you think the team needs to work on most to prepare for the playoffs?

Draper: We need to just take it one step at a time and do the little things.

Elliott: We need to work on having a good slap defense because the teams we will be playing will have a lot of speed and we need to be quicker on defense.

Friend: Quickness. Quicker bats because we will be facing faster pitchers and quicker defense because we’ll be facing more slappers and faster runners.

Flem: Keeping our focus and intensity. Not losing a game has given us confidence. We can’t let that turn into cockiness.

Monahan: We need to fine-tune the little things, like picking up our bat speed to face good pitchers and making sure we field and throw properly so we are flawless, or close to it.

HR News: What is the significance of the Gnome?

Draper: He is special.

Elliott: It’s just a very special good luck charm.

Friend: He’s special … for good luck.

Flem: He’s our good luck charm. Anything other than that is between the team.

Monahan: The gnome started out as a joke this fall between Stefanie and I and then the rest of the seniors though it would be a great mascot. Some people may say the gnome is our good luck charm, but really the gnome is just a piece of concrete that makes each and everyone of us happy and confident about ourselves.

HR News: How have Mr. Hukari and Mr. Smith been as coaches?

Draper: They both have been amazing and really encouraging, which has helped everyone. With Huk and Smitty, what more could we ask for?

Elliott: Hukari and Smitty have both been extremely good coaches. I have learned so much from both of them. They have helped me improve so much.

Friend: I have so much respect for both Huk and Smitty. They have taught me so much and are amazing coaches. They know how to get the most out of us and push us to be our best. I love them both.

Flem: I’ve worked with Huk since I was 10. He’s an amazing coach. We all love them both.

Monahan: Huk and Smitty have been there for us since the beginning. They both have done everything they can do to make us the best team that we can be. They have put so much time into the team, the field and each player.

HR News: How have the last four years of sports contributed to who you are today?

Draper: It’s helped me realize how special this varsity group is and how no other team has stuck together and all had the same goals.

Elliott: It’s helped me have more confidence in myself, have a winning attitude and be able to put my trust in other people.

Friend: It’s given me more confidence, taught me how to work hard and it’s given me so many memories.

Flem: They have given me a lot of opportunities and taught me a lot about life.

Monahan: Sports have played a big role in my high school career. Fall was the only time I wasn’t doing a sport, so when it came to keeping my grades up during basketball and softball season, I really have had to focus myself to stay on top of my work. I have also made a lot of friends through the years. It has been a great experience.

HR News: What are your plans for the fall?

Draper: I’m going to attend Oregon State University to play softball on a scholarship and to study to become a veterinarian or go into the field of animal science.

Elliott: To play softball at Clackamas College for two years, then transfer to a four-year college.

Friend: Go to Linfield, play softball and major in education.

Flem: I will be attending Western Oregon University to play softball and major in education.

Monahan: I plan on attending Western Oregon University, where I will study to become a radiologist or a nurse, and I hope to play softball.

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