There’s a steadfast confidence that’s growing by the day on the softball field at Mountain View High School.
That assuredness stems from the program’s renaissance last season, when they went 18-14 under first-year coach Ramon De La Ossa. The Lions gave eventual 5A runner-up Centennial all they could handle in the opening round of the playoffs, before losing to the Coyotes, 1-0 in 11 innings.
Fast-forward 10 months, and De La Ossa and the Lions are using that hard-fought loss as a rallying cry in preseason practice. The loss showed the former Rio Rico coach what his new squad was capable of, and how much his players have bought into his coaching philosophy.
De La Ossa expects this year’s team to use that loss to their benefit this season, contending for a region championship in the 5A Sonoran section.
“What I think we found by the end of the season, our girls had really bought into the system here,” he said. “I asked for dedication and accountability, things of that nature. And it seems like they were all playing for each other instead of with each other, by the end of the season.”
De La Ossa expects this year’s Lions squad to not miss a beat, with underclassmen like Jessica Niegocki, Jordy Van Der Werf and Jessica Sandoval leading the charge offensively.
The trio combined for 115 hits, 82 RBIs and 10 home runs last year, giving the Lions a formidable lineup for opposing pitchers.
Sandoval believes this year’s club has the right mixture of offensive firepower and pitching prowess to contend for a region title this spring.
“We have a lot of talent this year overall,” she said. “We have good pitching, we have good defense, we have strong bats. Overall, we’re just a really solid team.”
De La Ossa believes this year’s team can put all of those trinkets in play this spring, using what they learned in last year’s state playoffs to their advantage.
He’s confident that the aforementioned trio can guide their offense forward, with Niegocki carrying the load in the pitcher’s circle.
“Basically, my mantra; our mantra this year is one goal,” he said. “And I know it’s only my second year here at Mountain View, but honestly like to me I feel like if we play the way we’re capable of there’s no reason we can’t compete for a state title here.”
The Lions kicked off their season against Ironwood Ridge Tuesday, Feb. 26, falling 12-4 to the Nighthawks. The team followed up with a win two nights later against Catalina Foothills, beating the Falcons 9-7.
Van Der Werf believes the team’s high-energy approach to the game will allow them to pick up timely hits and avoid the pratfalls that come with an up-and-down sport like softball.
“We’re going to be jumping on the fence whenever something good happens,” she said. “[Fans] should expect us to be happy for our teammates and excited for every little thing that we do.”
De La Ossa is thrilled with the makeup of this year’s roster, with talented players of every age making an impact on games this season.
“I’m very fortunate. We have a really good mixture of seniors and a couple freshmen who actually made varsity, so, we’ll be in really good shape for the future,” he said. “I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with for the next few years, the way things are looking.”