Hudson Valley Express to Colorado
Last June, 12 girls from The Hudson Valley Express arrived in Colorado to compete in two national softball tournaments - most notably the Triple Crown Sparkler. Accompanied by their parents and families, Coach Mark Sergio described his Dutchess County girls squad as a really nice bunch that is intense when they have to be. On the other hand, the 585 Sparkler teams that are made up mostly of girls from the south and southwest bring a different connotation to the notion of team spirit.
"It's like a religion to them out there," he says. Still, The Hudson Valley Express held their own and put some meaning behind their own non-stop aspirations to be the best.
Before re-boarding their planes on July 5th, Hudson Valley Express became the first east coast team in the 14 and under age group to reach the gold medal bracket. That shakes out to a ranking of about 24 out of 75. Not making any excuses and very proud of the effort, he thinks it's numbers not athletic ability that separates east from west.
The seriousness and sunshine puts about 120 games under the hats of most of the competing teams, while The Express came in with about 40. "They see the same plays over and over," he says, "and we're kind of still at the beginning of their season."
The girls, though, left all that kind of thinking to their coach. "These kids have been playing tournament ball upwards of six or seven years, and they're not intimidated at all," he says. That showed itself in most spectacular fashion against a Texas team that went very deep into the gold bracket.
Shut down by a 4-0 score until the 6th inning by "Texas Elite," Hudson kept their heads and hearts in it. 14 year old Catie Conboy, who doesn't regularly shine as bright as some of her teammates, but has a knack of coming up key in big spots, started the 6th inning rally. Mr. Sergio's daughter, Savannah, ended the affair with a walk off single to win it. Otherwise, Ailish Hogan, Moriah Feeney,Christina Graff,Katie King,Nicole DeCosta,Marisa Delzio did all the damage in between and exemplified how this team faces adversity, according to Mr. Sergio. "The one thing they don't do is they don't give up," he says.
Within that mind set, someone always demonstrates that notion above the others. Pitcher Kelly Wicks would be "someone" in this case. Taking a blow to the head in making a tag play at second, she certainly made a double entendre like head-strong seem insufficient. "She wouldn't come out of the game," says Coach Sergio - only to find out later that she sustained a concussion.
Mr. Sergio also wanted to single out the grit of his two other pitchers, Amanda Gisonni and Katie King. No matter if faced with bad calls, good competition or tough innings, he says, "They know it's their job to go out and throw strikes," he says.
Of course, painting the corners and cutting the bag speaks nothing to the strong chemistry that plays a role in the success of this team. In addition, with 10 days in a team hotel, families in tow and the difficulties that could possibly overcome a dozen teenagers, he says, "You know 13 year old girls." For Hudson, he adds, no problems to speak of. Valley
It helps too when the parents are on the same page. They kept the water and snacks coming, helped organize after game activities and always stayed positive. "I've been on teams where there's been a real mess. This happens to be an exceptional team from both the kids' standpoint and the parents' standpoint," he says.
Looking forward, they're hoping to keep this team together as they move up to the next age level. As for the siblings who made the trip as spectators, he says, "There's an opportunity to do a trip like this, to play against athletes like this and prove you are as good as they are."