Mental toughness helps Elizabeth Forward softball to PIAA Class 4A title game

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | 7:13 PM


Elizabeth Forward softball’s Shelby Telegdy admits last season’s WPIAL semifinal against rival Belle Vernon wasn’t one of her best days.

The Warriors came into that game with a perfect 17-0 record with two wins over the Leopards, outscoring them 16-2 in those games.

But the Warriors’ rival to the south turned the tables, blowing EF out 10-1 and hitting three home runs in the process. The Leopards went on to win the WPIAL title days later.

“Shelby is usually pretty calm out there on the mound,” EF coach Harry Rutherford said. “But that game really got to her. She doesn’t usually show a lot of emotion out there, but that game was bad. She was all over the place and kind of fell apart mentally out there that day. It wasn’t just her. It was everyone.”

Rutherford thinks that game really stuck with his team, even as it went to the state semifinals last season.

“I think it really took a toll on us. Even the games we won after that like the consolation game and the state playoffs, we still weren’t quite right,” he said. “I think it really took us the entire year to get over that game.”

After the season ended, Rutherford wanted to do everything he could to make sure this season didn’t include a repeat of last.

“We really looked to get better mentally. It’s a thing, for sure. These are young players and they have a lot on their plates mentally,” he said following the team’s PIAA quarterfinal win over Chartiers Valley.

The win over Chartiers Valley was significant when it comes to being a hurdle for the Warriors.

Like their meeting with Belle Vernon in the WPIAL semis last year, it was the third meeting of the season between the two teams.

This time, the Warriors easily cleared that hurdle with an 11-1 win.

“There have been a few times when we were challenged this season and the girls didn’t get rattled at all,” Rutherford said. “They’ve worked hard doing some classroom things, working on mental health exercises and some other things to really work on building that mental toughness necessary. It’s a long season. It’s a grind for all of us.”

Telegdy specifically has really benefitted from the extra work.

“Building that mental toughness has been super important for all of us,” she said. “I never want to feel the way I did after that Belle Vernon game. That was tough. The mental work we’ve done has helped us tremendously, especially getting to this point in the season.”

The Warriors have eclipsed where they were last season, pounding District 11’s Archbishop Wood in Monday’s state semifinal to reach the pinnacle of the season – the PIAA Class 4A championship game at Penn State.

“I’m confident now that if we face adversity, we know how to move on to the next play and leave it behind us,” Rutherford said. “The girls have worked hard to get better on the field with their skill and their mentality. If you’re going to be a champion, that’s what it takes. You have to be a strong team on the field and mentally.”

The Warriors (23-1) will take on District 11 champion Blue Mountain (26-1) at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the championship game.

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