Editor’s Note: This story is a part of a series highlighting the senior high school athletes in the area who lost their final season.
With a young team, you need veteran leaders to keep things running smoothly when times get tough and those young players get tired as the season progresses.
For Morristown West softball coach Heather Kelley, she believed she had the perfect mix of veteran players and younger players on her 2020 team to have a successful year and make a run in the postseason.
While the season did not start off well, losing a lopsided contest to rival Morristown East, the Lady Trojans had plenty of reason to feel confident heading into the bulk of their campaign.
However, it was not meant to be. COVID-19 put on hold and then cancelled the remainder of the 2020 season for Kelley and her team, leaving seniors Caroline Robinette, Katie Wallin and Lily Reneau without a fitting end to their high school softball careers.
“One thing that always stick with me is ‘no matter what you think, those girls are going to turn into your family,’” Reneau said. “The way I look at it is that things happen, but it sucks that it had to be my senior year and turning in all of our things really hit me because this was supposed to be my final goodbye to the sports that I have fallen in love with. And I didn’t even get to say it, and I have to leave my family on the field. I really wish I could play one more game but things happen, and you can’t cry over it forever.”
While the Lady Trojans had eight freshmen on this year’s squad, including their entire pitching staff, Robinette, Wallin and Reneau were supposed to be a big part to the success of the team.
All three were set to get playing time with Wallin starting in the outfield, Reneau starting at first base and Robinette getting significant playing time in the outfield.
While Wallin was the designated player for much of last season, she only had 12 at-bats, Reneau hit .307 during her junior year and was looking to build off that.
“It was really sad because I was excited to play with the freshmen that we had this year,” Wallin said. “They were really good. I wanted to play with them and thought we could have done something this year.”
Unlike their counterparts on the baseball team, the Lady Trojans number of seniors is relatively small. With just three seniors, the bond between them is tight as they are the only ones who made it through it all, starting at little league and ending at the high school level.
For Wallin, Robinette and Reneau, their bond remained strong through it all.
Kelley, with a small group of seniors, makes this class mean even more to her. During their freshman season, the Lady Trojans won two games in the district tournament before falling to Morristown East. Sophomore year, the team was better, going 19-10 and 7-4 in the conference.
During their junior year, the team took a step back, going 14-16 but made a run in the district tournament. Kelley was hoping the team, specifically those seniors, could build off that postseason run in 2020.
“That group of seniors have been great,” Kelley said. “They have worked hard and been great teammates. I have been with Katie for four years in three sports, so it is hard to see her go. Lilly really stepped up as a leader this year, so I was looking forward to seeing her blossom this season. Caroline joined us last year and has been a joy to be around. The coaching staff and West high appreciate all the hard work and sacrifice they have put in over the years. They will be dearly missed.”
As for the future, Wallin will be play on in college, joining the Maryville College volleyball team. For Robinette and Reneau though, this is the end of the road. A road that had many ups and downs. And memories that will last forever.