The start of the 2020 season for the Pauls Valley Lady Panthers and new coach Macey Hatfield has been put on hold, for now.
A positive COVID-19 test at a band camp this past week has put all Panther activities on hold until August 24.
The Lady Panthers were scheduled to open the season Monday at home with Lindsay and then open district play at home with McGuinness on Tuesday.
“We have already went through some trials that most schools have yet to go through,” head coach Macey Hatfield said. “Our first 2 weeks into our season has been cut short due to COVID-19. This is not what I had hoped for in my first season as a Panther and for these girls.”
That was also the sentiment of lone senior Elly Cleveland.
“This isn’t how I ever envisioned my senior year going, but I already can’t wait to get back to it with my girls and the best coaches,” Cleveland said.
Coach Hatfield added on Cleveland's statement.
“As I coach I am 100% with her when I say I can’t wait to get back on the field with this group of girls. We have come so far in such a short amount of time. We are a family, and we will Defend the Valley!”
‘Defend the Valley' is the 2020 motto for this young squad.
Pauls Valley has 15 girls out this season with only Cleveland being a senior. She is joined by 3 juniors, 6 sophomores and 3 freshmen.
Despite their youth they do have experience on the diamond with several returning starters and players that saw lots of action last season.
“A majority of the players are returning from last season,” Hatfield said. “Madison Wilkins did not play last season. We have 3 freshman coming up from junior High. We have 1 freshman transfer from CCS and 1 freshman that came over from Whitebead.”
Hatfield likes what she has seen from her players since being named coach.
“My returning players are seasoned,”Hatfield said. “As a coach you can’t teach heart. The girls either have to have it or they don’t.
“From the day I stepped into this program and met all the girls I noticed they all have the heart and the love for the game. They want it just as bad as the coaches do and that makes practice and scrimmages so much fun.”
The Lady Panthers will have a good mixture of talent around the field.
Pitching will be a strong position for the Lady Panthers with returning starter Carlie Vestle and sophomore backup Jaycee Green seeing a majority of time in the circle. Freshman Madison Caldwell provides depth that position.
“First base, pitcher, and center field looks like it could be a possible triangle,” Hatfield said. “Whoever is pitching depends on these position. Carly will be our starting pitcher, Jaycee Green will be playing first, and Caitlyn Hagood in center. When Jaycee is pitching, Caitlyn will be at first and Carlie in center.”
Freshman Kennedi Rambo stepped up for coach Hatfield and found a starting roll at second base.
Madilyn Hagood was a starter last year but has changed positions and will use her talents at short. “She came in and worked hard for that position,” Hatfield said.
Lana Rodriguez will continue her role at third base as a second-year starter.
Kadence Newsom will be in her second season behind the dish at catcher. She is getting pushed everyday by freshman move-in Maison Sissney for that spot.
Caldwell worked her way into the lineup in left field. “Madison was the JH pitcher last season but has come in and showed she can also play outfield,” Hatfield said. “She has found a starting position in left.”
Right field has been a battle for several players. “Elly Cleveland, Makayla Wilkerson, and Maison Sissney have battled for that position hard,” Hatfield said. “This position will be a game time decision.”
Mallory sager, Jaylye stokes, Madison Wilkins and Laney English are all looking for playing time and will be a vital part in the upcoming season.
“Laney has shown tremendous work and speed on the bases and in the outfield,” Hatfield said. “Jaylye's bar has really come alive recently and I see cracking into the line up.
“Mallory is the definition of a utility player. She has worked hard in whatever position I have put her in and anything I say she absorbs. Madison works day in and day out to be better and wants to play with everything she has, she will crack this line up.”
When asked about who was a leader on the team, Hatfield said. “Everyone has stepped up and showed leadership traits. When you look at this team you don’t see freshman and seniors. You see a group that has cone together as one. They are a true unit!”
The Lady Panthers will miss close to 10 games including three district games before they can get back on the field on August 24. Pauls Valley is in District 4A-4 which features state runner-up Purcell along with Tecumseh, Harrah, Seminole, Bethel and Bishop McGuinness.
“All of our district games are tough,” Hatfield said. “We can’t walk in and take these teams lightly. They will all come out and give us a battle.
“I believe in the work these kids have put in and will give anyone a fight. Outside of our district games there are teams that will continue to push us. We have a tough schedule from day one but I have no doubt in my mind, these girls will go hard every play of every inning.”
With all the returning players, expectations are high for this Lady Panther squad.
“At the end of the day I want the girls to walk away from this game giving everything they have,” Hatfield said. “I want them to work hard and never lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is to ‘Defend the Valley.’ It’s been a transition for them but they have stepped up to the plate and worked hard to do just that.
“My expectation for them is to put in the effort at practice, scrimmages, and games and know that if they can battle through the trials the game has to throw at them, they can get through anything that life is going to throw at them.”