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High school softball coaches eager to play full season again

When Centennial coach Mike Livreri looks around the softball field, he sees a strong group of upperclassmen.

He can only think what could have been.

“We’ve got a lot of stud juniors and a couple seniors, but we’ve barely had them,” Livrieri said. “If we were able to have them for the third year going on solid seasons, we’d be creating more of a culture. When you’re away, the culture starts to fade.”

Livreri said culture is built on spending time together in practice, traveling to tournaments and especially experiencing tough playoff games.

While there was a regional tournament during the shortened season last year, the time together was limited and travel was nixed. Some teams missed 10 days at a time because of positive COVID tests, a year after the season was shut down less than a month after it started because of the pandemic.

The last state championship went to Shadow Ridge in 2019. The Mustangs were competitive again last season, falling to Arbor View in the Class 5A Southern Region tournament championship game.

“Once we got back on the field last year, we had a lot of athletes that had been in the JV program and never played varsity, and we had to throw them on the field in an odd situation,” Shadow Ridge coach Julia Meyn said. “They were forced on the field as starters, and that was a lot of stress on them.”

But the Mustangs responded, and they will be among the favorites again to reach the state tournament out of the south.

Arbor View headlines that list under the guidance of Lea Ann Jarvis, a former Division I college coach at Texas State and New Mexico State.

The Aggies return a strong core led by senior Trinity Brandon, a San Diego State signee. They should be tough in the circle with Annie Finch returning, and they added a two-way standout in Jill Colgan, who struck out a state-high 149 batters and hit .460 as a sophomore last season for Rancho.

The difference, Meyn said, is there always have been three or four teams that could contend, but that number has grown in recent years.

She expects more intense games like the Mustangs and Aggies played in last year’s regional final.

“I appreciate a game like we had with Arbor View,” Meyn said. “It was intense and challenging, and that’s what you look for. I think it will be like that when we play teams like Green Valley, Centennial and Arbor View, and we can’t overlook anybody or it will bite you.”

Green Valley was the surprise team last season, earning the No. 1 seed for the regional tournament under first-year coach Kathlyn Doiron, a two-time national champion as a player at Florida. The Gators return junior twins in pitcher Avari and shortstop Mikee Morris.

“We have a better idea of what’s out there after getting a glimpse last season,” Livrieri said. “There are a lot of good challengers out there.”

In Class 4A, Bishop Gorman is the favorite after running through the season undefeated and with little resistance on its way to the title. Silverado should be the Gaels’ closest challenger after reaching the 4A championship game last season.

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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