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.
Following an opening season loss to South Greene, the Morristown East Lady ‘Canes won their next two games, taking down Cocke County and then smacking cross-town rival Morristown West 13-1.
The win was their 10th straight over the Lady Trojans. West has not beaten East since 2016.
However, just a week after that win, instead of trying to build off the early season momentum, the East team was sitting at their homes, their season finished. For Haley Wallace, Megan Russell, Olivia Harris and Tapanga Asbury, not only did it mean the end of their season, it meant the end of their high school softball career.
“They weren’t just my teammates,” Russell said. “They were my family. All because of them, I know not to settle and to keep pushing to my fullest potential. No matter what happened, win or lose, we had each other and that sisterhood that we built can never be broken.
“It was heartbreaking losing my senior season because I’ve been waiting so long to finally be the leader. And I’ve grown with that team and knowing I’m not gonna get to go back and play is really hard to process. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”
The COVID-19 pandemic ended prematurely the careers of the four seniors, who have been a part of three of three of the more dominant years in Morristown East history.
The seniors went out with a 96-21 record in their four seasons.
During the 2019 season, Morristown East went 33-7, including an undefeated 12-0 in conference play.
The Lady ‘Canes won the District 2-AAA and Region 1-AAA Championships before falling to Halls in the Class AAA Sectional, one game shy of the state tournament.
East made the Class AAA sectional during the senior’s freshman and sophomore seasons as well, falling both times.
The 2020 season was supposed to be their final chance to make it over the sectional hump and get into the state tournament.
“I have really enjoyed my time playing softball at East High the past four years, and I have made so many good friends that I’ve enjoyed playing with. It makes me really sad that we lost our senior year, but I am looking forward to my next step in life,” Harris said.
There were plenty of reasons to believe that East would achieve that goal of making the state tournament, led by Wallace, Russell, Harris and Asbury.
For Harris, she was coming into the year after hitting .423 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs during her junior season. Asbury hit .291 with five home runs and 34 RBIs in 2019.
No slouches themselves, Russell, who was an all-conference player in 2019, hit .310 with 30 RBIs in 2019 while Haley Wallace was expected to share starting time in the outfield this season.
For East softball coach Robin Vannoy, this is a special senior class to her with all the success they have been a part of in the program.
While it is sad for all seniors losing their final year, Vannoy feels for her four, who don’t have that final chance of making it to the state.
“Success is not always about what is reached but often it is found in obstacles that are overcome,” Vannoy said. “These ladies are great reflection of our core values and competitive excellence. I am proud of the legacy that they will leave behind. Three straight sub-state appearances.”
For the four seniors, it is the end of the road for their softball careers. While it didn’t finish the way they would’ve liked, they will always be remembered as making a huge impact on the Morristown East softball program.
“Playing with these girls was more than just about softball, it was about building a sisterhood,” Wallace said. “That’s why we played so well together. We could always rely on one another. I was so disappointed with not being able to have my senior season. I had always looked forward to assuming the senior leadership role and being a mentor for the other girls. I was also bummed about not having a senior night. I would love to be able to play just one more game as a Lady ‘Cane.”