MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New Life Academy is a familiar name in the girls state softball tournament.
The four-time defending state champions will face Sebeka in the opening round on Thursday. But this year’s team is quite unlike past squads.
Although the Eagles are flying high into the tournament for the seventh straight year, not many believed the team’s current lineup could have made it so far.
“At the beginning of the year, no one believed we would go,” said Valerie Hohol, a pitcher. “No one expected us to make it this far. No one expected us to be this good.”
Amanda Heidman, who plays third base, says making it to the tournament is “super exciting.”
“It’s a dream come true,” she said.
This year’s New Life Academy team has a youthful look. There are no seniors, and a junior is the only veteran player in the lineup.
Nicole Johnson, the junior, says she sometimes feels like a mom to the girls.
“Everyone is so mature and fun,” she said. “I love it, it’s great.”
The mantra the team has invoked is simple, and it’s been a big reason for their success. Coach Mick Ramey said the team has a motto, which was started four years ago. It’s clear and encouraging: just one more.
“That means one more game, one more out, one more RBI, one more diving catch,” Ramey said. “All the girls are buying into it….not looking ahead three or four games, taking care of the game in front of us.”
New Life Academy is hoping to complete their drive for five with another state tournament title.
“You want to carry on the tradition,” Hohol said. “We knew it was going to be hard, but we want to keep it going.”