Hawks have chance to go deep into playoffs


Co-captains Haley Hinz, left, Sydney Brooks, Kiana East and Kaitlyn Jensen and the rest of the Viera High softball team have their sights set on a trip to the Final Four this season. Photo by Carl Kotala

When asked how much coming up just short of making the Final Four last season has motivated them for 2016, Viera High softball co-captains Sydney Brooks, Kiana East, Hayley Hinz and Kaitlyn Jensen all responded in unison:

“Really, really motivated,” they said.

With 13 returners from a team that reached the Class 7A regional final and was ranked No. 1 in the state at one point last year, the Hawks are also extremely talented.

So let’s see … motivated, talented … . Should make for an exciting season.

“Person for person, this should be the strongest team that I’ve had,” Viera coach Dale Pierce said. “I say that every year, but last year’s team … they were good, but they’d never been really deep in the playoffs.

“With them going as deep as they did last year, I think they really got a taste for it.”

The Hawks also have a bit of a new look, thanks to some changes to their lineup.

Jensen has moved from shortstop to third. Brooks has moved from the outfield to short. East will be at second when she’s not pitching. When East is on the mound, it will be Kelly Bishop at second with Kim Sugarman at first base.

Ally Loyd will be the catcher, with Briana Barrios seeing time there as well.

In the outfield, it will be Madison Headley, Hinz (when she’s not pitching) and Carly Kish. 

The two newcomers, who should also get a chance to contribute this season, are utility players Taylor Jensen and Zoe Hatley.

Viera’s captains believe there are two factors that should really help them this season.

One is the addition of assistant coach Casey Vassallo, a former Viera player who went on to play at Lynn University. Not only has Vassallo been working the players hard to make sure they’re in top condition, she’s also been imparting her own knowledge of the game and that can have nothing but positive implications.

So, too, can that fact that after spending so much time together last year — particularly in the playoffs where Viera had to travel to Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and Sarasota — the Hawks are self-aware.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Kaitlyn Jensen said. “… I think we can grow from last year.”

This is also a team that shouldn’t have to worry about building team chemistry because it’s already there.

“Since we had such a lengthy season, we all bonded and played well together, so we definitely know what we’re going into this year,” East said.

“We need another lengthy season,” Hinz added.

All signs are pointing to it.

“We know the game,” Pierce said. “If Kiana East stays healthy, we should do really well.”