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Readying for the challenge

Fresh off an undefeated season, the Orioles prepare for a run toward the title

The Conant softball teams heads into the postseason with an undefeated record, the Orioles are driven to capture a state title.

The Conant softball teams heads into the postseason with an undefeated record, the Orioles are driven to capture a state title. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

The undefeated Conant softball team with get a chance to exact revenge on a Farmington squad that bounced them from last year’s playoffs when the two teams face off on Thursday.

The second-seeded Orioles (16-0) will host No. 15 Farmington (9-8) on Thursday at 4 p.m., almost a year to the day that Farmington defeated the fourth-seeded Orioles in last year’s quarterfinal contest.

“The [Farmington] pitcher threw a gem against us last year,” said Orioles head coach Tom Lambert during practice on Tuesday.

Over the last five seasons, the Orioles have fielded strong softball teams that came into the playoffs with good seeding, but failed to generate enough offense to deliver a deep playoff run. Although the journey has been frustrating at times, Lambert believes that this is the year.

“They know they could have — and maybe should have — won last year,” said Lambert. “This year the attitude, mentality, and ability to not panic have helped us.”

Senior captain Jenna Sirois echoed Lambert’s sentiments.

“We have our heads on straighter this year. In the past we have gotten down on each other. We have more heart this season,” said Sirois.

Fellow senior captain Hannah Buckjune cited the team’s work on its overall attitude and cohesiveness as part of its success this season.

“We set our attitude problems straight at the beginning of the season. Nobody on this team is above anyone else,” said Buckjune.

Senior captain Heather Bilodeau points to coach Lambert for helping the team immensely this season.

“I see a real difference in coach. He’s less laid back this season. We have been working on fundamentals more, which leads to us not losing winnable games,” said Bilodeau, a team leader who carries the burden of catching ace Ivy Chalke.

“Ivy is a great person and player,” Bilodeau said. “It’s my job to keep her from getting emotional on the mound. I’ve done a good job of that this season.”

Chalke is a big factor in the Orioles’ success, as she’s one of the state’s elite pitchers.

“In the past, at the end of the season the team didn’t care as much. The seniors were looking forward to graduation and the hot summer weather got to us,” said Chalke.

Junior Katie Chadbourne believes that the Orioles are tighter-knit than in past seasons.

“We stayed together this season, everyone is getting along well,” she said. “Our undefeated season showed us that we can do it.”

Freshman duo Megan Harvey and Grace Chadbuorne feel confident heading into the playoffs, despite being newcomers to the program.

“We trust coach 100 percent,” said Harvey. “He pushes us so hard.”

“Hopefully we can get the job done this season and then use this year as motivation to keep Conant softball strong for years to come,” added Grace.

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