SIERRA VISTA — They may not have come home with the title of western regional champions but the Senior Ponytail team has memories that will last a lifetime.
“All I can say is it was a beautiful opportunity,” said one of the team’s coaches Jaclyn Serna. “There were a lot of firsts for the girls.”
This was the first time a Ponytail team from Sierra Vista traveled out of state to compete in a regional tournament. The girls qualified for the week-long competition after winning the state tournament in Avondale in July.
After winning the state title they girls had one week to fundraise for their trip to Montana, so they could represent Arizona in the western regional. Team manager Charles Galarneau said the team raised roughly $11,000 in the week leading up to when they had to leave.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who supported us,” said Amiya Matthews.
Because the teams were able to raise a significant amount of money they were able to fly to Missoula, Montana. The journey to Montana was the first time Katie Serna, the youngest player on the team at 13, flew on a plane. She said she was nervous but it was at that moment, sitting in her seat, that she realized what she and her teammates have done.
Despite being one of the youngest players at the regional tournament, Katie led all pitchers in starting an at-bat with a strike.
Teammates Emelia Weber and Matthews took longer to have the same feeling of realization. The pair said it wasn’t until they took the field for their first game that they came to understand what they were playing for and what they have done.
Sierra Vista held a 4-3 record at the end of the five-day competition and finished third of the seven teams. Their losses came against Hawaii and Southern California. Southern California won the region championship.
“We learned this impossible dream is possible,” Jaclyn said. “They did a superb job. There were so many beautiful moments on the field.”
Even though the team lost to Hawaii, that game will always be special for Weber as she hit her first out-of-the-park home run.
“I wasn’t swinging for a home run but it just went,” she said.
The team is using their time in Montana as motivation for next year because they were so close to playing in the World Series in Delaware.
“We’ll come back next year 10 times stronger,” Weber said. “I think we earned some respect.”
Matthews agreed. “It put a fire in our bellies to want to take it next year.” she said.
They also hope their success encourages girls throughout Sierra Vista who have thought about playing softball to actually join and tryout next season.
“Just the opportunity of playing was a good experience for us,” Katie said. “The plane ride back was sad to leave, but happy to be home.”