This time last year Central was riding high heading into the District 6-AA softball tournament. The Lady Purple Pounders were champions of the district regular season and had visions of a third consecutive trip to the state tournament.
But within a week they got blindsided, and those visions were gone.
First came a loss to East Hamilton in the winners-bracket final, followed by a loss to East Ridge in the losers-bracket final and their season was over.
"It was a lesson," Central coach LeeAnne Shurette said. "We didn't like it, but it was a learning experience. I don't think the girls want to go through that again. I know I don't.
"To me, it was just one of those things that wasn't meant to be."
It's again time for postseason play to begin for Division I teams in the TSSAA. District 7-AA will get things started locally when Signal Mountain plays at Chattanooga Christian today at 5 p.m.
The Lady Pounders' first district-tournament game is Saturday against Brainerd at White Oak Park in Red Bank at 1 p.m. Only the teams that play for the championship move on to region play.
"As a coach we still have the same approach," Shurette said. "I feel like the girls have taken more responsibility on themselves in order to make the team successful."
The returning players off last year's team know they can't undo the past. But the seniors -- Brooke Eller, Hannah Powell and Brook Womack -- claim they're ready to do something about the immediate future. They say the lesson was learned.
"We're not going to go out with the big heads and think we're unbeatable," Eller said.
Humbling or not, one difference this year is instead of being regular-season champions, they're entering the district tournament as the No. 2-seeded team.
"I feel good about how we just want to work and go out and play," Powell said. "We have better attitudes. I just feel better about this year. I don't know why."
Shurette recalled last year showing back up at Warner Park the day after losing 5-4 to the Lady Hurricanes, believing her team would be able to shake off that loss and win three consecutive games that day. To beging with, Central had outscored the Lady Pioneers 29-0 in three previous meetings last season.
East Ridge then scored a run in the first inning, and the longer the game went, the larger that run loomed. It ended up being the game's only run.
"First of all," Powell said of getting last year's problem corrected, "we can't have goose eggs on the scoreboard. Sorry."
If any Central player oozes confidence it's Womack, but that's no different than any previous season. She said she believes this could be a state-championship team, but she also thought so of last year's team.
"I thought we were," she said, "until we lost."
Womack emphasized that there hasn't been any fighting among team members this year, which wasn't the case last year.
The Lady Pounders say their outlooks have changed. It remains to be seen if the results will.
"We're a lot closer team," Eller said. "All our attitudes are a lot better. We know we have to pick each other up. We knew what needed to be fixed, and we went out and worked on that."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or email@example.com.