In Melissa Chase's four years as head coach of Harlem High School softball, she has seen many new faces come through the program.
Several new faces will dot the 2006 roster, but some of the names will be familiar.
"I have the little sisters now of two girls that graduated last year. They're freshmen this year," Chase said. "It's interesting. It makes me feel kind of old."
The pair of seniors from last year's squad, Ashton Leogrande and Laci McNair, have moved on from Harlem. Their sisters, Samantha Leogrande and Kaleigh McNair, will step in to take their places.
"It's different, but we're glad they're out here," Harlem junior Brittany Newsome said. "Everybody already knows everybody, we've just got to get used to them on the field."
Harlem will welcome back almost a full infield of returning starters this season. When the Lady Bulldogs take the field for their home opener against Greenbrier High School later this month, Chase said the defense on the diamond should be solid. The experienced play of Newsome on the mound and her catcher, Rachel Oates, will lead the charge.
"We have our pitcher and catcher coming back," Chase said. "That takes a lot of stress off of you because you don't have to worry about who's going to step in.
"They've played together long enough and developed enough of a relationship where they can understand each other."
The pitcher/catcher connection between Newsome and Oates goes back to middle school softball. The years of constant play together is one of the main strengths of this season's team, Chase said.
That's why the team's goals are even loftier than last season's state sectional appearance and 22-10 overall record.
"Every year, our goal is to go to Columbus and make the Elite Eight," Chase said. "We got close last year. I think this year we have a better chance because of who's coming back. We have another year under our belts."
Harlem's season opener will take place at the Madison County Leadoff Classic starting Thursday.
The Lady Bulldogs will return to Harlem for their home opener against Greenbrier at 6 p.m. Aug. 28.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.