‘We’re going to be really good’

Published 11:45 am Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Kenston Forest School’s varsity softball team enters the 2019 season with a dugout full of confidence after surprising the state and making it to the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division III state title game last year.

The young Lady Kavaliers finished the 2018 season with a battle-tested overall record of 17-14 after toppling Brunswick Academy in the state semifinals and falling to Fuqua School in the title game to finish as state runners-up.

Kenston Forest remains young this year, but it is returning most of its team. Gone due to graduation are Taylor Berkley, starting catcher Ally McComas and starting first baseman Josie Epperson.

However, there are players embracing the opportunities created by those girls’ departures.

“I have quite a few girls that I feel like are stepping up nicely, so yes,” Lady Kavs Head Coach Jannon Coley said. “I think we’re going to be really good this season.”

The expectations are easy for Coley to outline this year.

“We’ve already set our goals — the first thing is to win the conference, and the second thing is to win the state,” she said. “And I definitely feel like this team right here has the best chance out of probably all the teams we’ve had since the last time we won one.”

The last time Kenston Forest won the VISAA Division III state championship was 2014, the end of a stretch in which the Lady Kavaliers wore the state crown for four consecutive years.

But the team has not fallen off the map in the intervening years. Kenston Forest has been state runner-up two out of the last three years and lost in the state semifinals the year in between.

“We’ve been right up in there,” Coley said. “We just hadn’t had the gusto, I guess, to complete it, but we’re in it to win it this year, definitely.”

More than half of the 11-member 2019 Lady Kavaliers roster is underclassmen.

“I only have one senior, so we’ll be, I think, a good team for the next couple years, but my leader is my senior, which is Rachel Moore,” Coley said. “She’s one of my captains.”

Moore will play at first base and some in the outfield.

Joining the team this year is junior Peyton Coleman.

“She transferred in from Brunswick Academy, and she’s our shortstop, and she was also Player of the Year last year for our conference, so we definitely gained a really good asset there,” Coley said.

Comprising the pitching rotation will be freshman Shelby Gunn, junior Rachel Tucker, freshman Taylor Maione and eighth-graders Avery Tucker and Mackenzie Newcomb.

“So, we’re pretty solid as far as the pitching goes,” Coley said. “Behind the plate, catching, I’ve got Molly Epperson. She’s in 10th grade, and then I also have my eighth-graders, Mackenzie Newcomb and Avery Tucker, who can catch.”

The coach said she expects junior Haley Henshaw to contribute at second base, sophomore Berkley Rose will play in center field and junior Sydney Harmon will also play in the outfield.

Kenston Forest opens its season Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at home against Fuqua, the matchup Coley predicts will reappear in this year’s state title game.