Seniors help ‘make a name’ for Chartiers Valley softball

Sunday, June 23, 2024 | 9:50 AM

Every year, teams often live by a saying or quote that resonates. Coaches put it inside their dugouts and gyms when they work out or even on the back of a shirt.

For Chartiers Valley’s softball team, this year’s designated saying on the back of its shirts read, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

Coach Chris Lloyd felt that was fitting for this group of seniors — Marta Gualazzi, Caitlin O’Farrell, Kylie DeSalle and Autumn Weitzel — who have been there every step of the way through the program’s resurgence.

Over the past four seasons, Chartiers Valley has appeared in four WPIAL semifinals and three state tournaments. In the seniors’ final season, they helped the Colts go 18-5 and win their first state playoff game.

“It was showing the seniors that four years ago when you guys came here, this was all a dream and the CV program wasn’t looked at as getting to where we are now,” Lloyd said. “Now it’s a reality to all the work you’ve put in; it’s showing you’ve made a name for CV softball.”

While the past senior classes have played an integral part on the Colts recent success, this class can say it owns a piece of history with the state win.

“We all agreed that it was a good way to end our softball careers. We didn’t win the WPIAL championship, but we still made some school history. It was really achieving for us,” O’Farrell said.

That storybook win came against Cathedral Prep, 6-1 in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs June 3.

“Since my freshman year, we’ve played in two other states games and neither of those games were successful or close at all, so going into states for the third time we were just trying to make the most of it,” Gualazzi said.

It was a matchup against an unfamiliar Cathedral Prep team that had just won a District 10 championship, but the Colts were backed by timely hitting, sound defense and dominant pitching.

“Going into it, I think all of us didn’t know what to expect; we just knew if we played good defense and made contact with the ball, we’d do well,” Gualazzi said. “That game was one of our best defensive games we’ve ever played.”

Junior pitcher Taylor Walsh allowed just two hits and tossed five strikeouts in a complete game performance.

“When Taylor’s out in the circle, I know that she will do whatever she can to help the team. It’s very comforting knowing you have a pitcher in the circle that’s going to give it her all,” O’Farrell said.

The state win was made possible by an impressive first two games in the WPIAL playoffs as the Colts dispatched Highlands, 14-4, to set up a meeting with the team that knocked them out a year prior.

A matchup with the Montour Spartans at West Mifflin was double trouble for the Colts.

“We played them twice this year — beat them the first time and then lost to them and that’s how we ended up losing the section,” Gualazzi said. “After that loss, we were a little nervous. It was also at West Mifflin and our team, we just don’t like playing at West Mifflin.”

All the nerves heading into that game didn’t matter as the Colts put together one of the most dominating playoff performances in the program’s history, winning 19-2.

“We lost to Montour last year, and we were excited to kick them out of the playoffs. West Mifflin is a field that we never win at, and we would say we broke the curse. We beat Montour and we won at West Mifflin,” O’Farrell said.

Despite falling in the WPIAL semifinals for the fourth straight year, this time to Elizabeth Forward, Chartiers Valley had a chance at redemption to make it back to states against Blackhawk in the consolation game.

“I told them going into that game it’s one of the hardest games,” Lloyd said. “It’s lose or go home. Girls have graduated, everyone’s ready for summer, travel ball’s starting, and you just lost in the semifinals. It’s more about mental toughness than anything.”

The Colts found themselves down by a run going into the fifth inning and, right before a weather delay, power bat Lily Duffill sent out a clutch grand slam.

“Lily came up, hits a home run and take the lead. Then, we had a lightning delay after that. The whole demeanor in the dugout changed right after that. It was real quiet before the home run. During the rain delay, they were up, they were dancing, loose and relaxed. When they are loose and relaxed, they play a lot better,” Lloyd said.

The victory gave Chartiers Valley new life heading into the PIAA postseason, which allowed the Colts to pick up the momentous win over Cathedral Prep before falling to Elizabeth Forward once again in the state quarterfinals, 11-1.

Through it all, the seniors were just hoping to make an impact on the underclassmen for the future.

“It makes me feel good because it’s nice to know that we really did make something happen,” Gualazzi said. “Looking back at the beginning of the year, we weren’t doing as well as the end, so we really grew together as a team and it made me realize how good of leaders us seniors were to help everybody grow and make it this far.”

Added O’Farrell: “I hope that we made an impact and that these girls keeping winning states games. I hope we inspired them to keep winning.”


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