Trying to hold on to a City Championship softball title for four consecutive years is hard enough. But five?
That’s nerve wracking.
That was the sentiment shared by Leaside Lancers captain Madeline Murray while seated in the guidance office of her high school with the team’s assistant coach Rabyah Picardo.
Murray, in her final year, was talking about the May 29 South Region final against rival school Northern SS. The final score was 5-3, but the events leading up to the bottom of the seventh inning had everyone in Lancer territory holding their breath.
“It was too scary,” Murray said. “It was a two-run difference.
“By having the four-year consecutive and 13 years it’s been in the school, it’s a lot of pressure for Leaside to perform.”
In previous years, both teams from the regional championships would make it through to the Citys’ round robin tournament.
“Our defence was great, and that’s how we held them to such low runs, but our bats weren’t on and that just elevated the pressure,” she said. “The margin for error was so small and personally I could not relax.”
Still, the troupe of 12 girls pulled it out, and met their rivals again in the City final, this time winning 9-6.
The reason for two tight games, when most of the regular season wins came with at least an eight-run difference, was a mindset of been-there, done-that.
“I found that really tough, because half of the team was, ‘We’ve already won against them, so we don’t have to worry’,” Murray said. “It was such a big run difference, and guys, Northern’s going to come back and they want this probably more than we do.”
Still, Murray managed to mute her team’s over-confidence.
Picardo lauded her for her efforts.
“Madeline is by far one of the most humble athletes I’ve ever met, so when she says that she took on this role of the captain …
she’s such a positive leader and it’s her presence on the diamond that you feel,” she said.
That leadership has also bled into a family-like environment.
“(Head coach) Janice (Leung) was super proud of the team, and I think going back to the whole family idea, that’s how she feels about the team,” Picardo said. “It’s just such an amazing experience.
“It’s not a chore to go out to practice with the girls.”
The last team, other than the Lancers, to win the City Championship was York Mills Titans in 2008 and ’09.
Murray, along with standout pitcher Maddy McGillvray and two other seniors, will be graduating, leaving Grade 9 corner-infielder, and pitcher, Hayley Everett to be the face of the 2015 squad.
“She’s just an all round amazing player,” Murray said.
Also a part of the 2014 City Championship team were Lauren Heath, Calaina Brooke, Hannah Ryley, Delaney Randle, Kristen Yee, Gabby Turcotte, Emily Everett, Rachelle Champion and Sage McColl.