Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

1A North softball: St. Michael working on basic fundamentals and team bonding

February 27, 2019 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

After earning the school's first ever softball state tournament berth last year, the St. Michael Indian School Lady Cardinals have set its goals high and are aiming to advance further in the 1A state tournament.

St. Michael head softball coach Karen Tom, who has six years of varsity coaching experience, guided the Lady Cardinals to an impressive 17-7 record and 1A North Region championship last year.

St. Michael earned a state tournament berth with its number eight ranking and 1A North Region title.

The Lady Cardinals chalked up a 7-6 victory over Anthem Prep in the first round of the state tournament. St. Michael was eliminated in the state tournament by multiple State Champion Superior Jr./Sr. Lady Panthers, 11-0, in five innings last year.

"Our first berth in the state tournament went well, better than expected," Tom said.

Tom greeted eight returnees from last year's team. The returnees include senior catcher and outfielder Kylea Monroe; juniors Amaya Joe, who plays third base and pitches; and Natalia Goldtooth, shortstop and outfield. The returning players also include sophomores Arianna Quintana, second base; Jolynn Smith, outfielder; Maya Ross, pitcher; Areya Hanley, outfielder; and Sunshine Burnside, catcher and shortstop.

Tom said softball has become popular at St. Michael. She said this year is her largest squad, which includes 18 girls, 10 pf the players are freshmen.

"We have set our goals high and are aiming to advance in the state tournament," Tom said. "We attended the state tournament once for the very first time and it has ignited a fire in all of us. Every practice we remind ourselves of the biggest goal and that's state tournament. But we also want to stay grounded and remember that we have to take each game as it comes. We want to work on the fundamentals and create a strong team bond. We believe that is going to get us to the state tournament."

Tom said the strength of the Lady Cardinals is the fact that the eight returnees have already battled a winning season and know what it takes to get to the state tournament.

"They are young, seasoned athletes," Tom stated. "They have experience and are good mentors to the incoming (10) freshmen. With that said, the incoming freshmen class are my biggest participants. I am looking forward to seeing them in action, as they also took their middle school NAIC championship, a first for St. Michael Indian School."

Tom pointed out that the Lady Cardinals' weakness is a physical one.

"Because of the amount of snow the North region has received, we are without a field to practice on," Tom explained. "After the second biggest snowstorm, we received about 14 inches, covering everything, including our field."

Tom continued, "We are limited to being inside the gym and have had numerous cancellations of school days, which also cancels practice. But in all situations, we try to make the best of it. We've also been able to hit the weight room regularly, so that's a plus. Being inside helps us to focus on our team bonding and work on basic fundamental skills, as well as get in some good, old fashion conditioning."

The Lady Cardinals' season opener with Ganado Lady Hornets this Friday has been postponed.

"Due to effects of the snow we received, we had to rescheduled for a later date, because of fields are flooded and muddy," Tom said.

In addition to St. Michael, the 1A North Region consists of Rock Point, Red Mesa, Fredonia and Rough Rock.

"Our rival has always been the Rock Point Cougars," Tom remarked. "We have always had a good duel every year. Last year, unfortunately though, they did not make it into the state tournament. However, we will see them at our first tournament of the season at the Joseph City Softball Tournament."

St. Michael is scheduled to open its season at the Joseph City Softball Tournament, March 7-9. The Lady Cardinals face the Chinle Lady Wildcats at 8 a.m. on March 7. At 2:45 p.m. on March 7, the Lady Cardinals meets Greyhills Academy Lady Knights.

St. Michael takes on Lee Williams on March 8 at 8 a.m. Based on the outcome of the three games, the Lady Cardinals will find out where they will be placed on the tournament bracket.