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Softball cheers turn into tears

By: Alex Stewart, News Messenger Correspondent
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Donna Tofft did not know quite how to respond when asked where the 2011 season will rank in Lincoln High School softball history. The veteran coach knows that history better than anyone. After all, this is her 25th year with the Zebras. “Every team is unique. They all do something special,” Tofft said Tuesday after her team bowed out of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs with a 5-4 loss in 10 innings to Pioneer at Sacramento Softball Complex. Sophomore catcher Courtney Jones realized long before the playoffs where the season would rank. It would be her last with her sister, Shelby, as a teammate. Shelby will soon graduate. “It’s pretty sad,” Courtney said. This season was also the last in blue, gold and black for Katie Emerson, Kacie Freymond and Nikoli Sharp. Although the season did not end as they had hoped, they leave a legacy of success. “We wanted to win it for them,” junior Ashleigh Stidman said. “I’m super, super close to all of them.” Each senior contributed to the Zebras repeating as Pioneer Valley League champions. Each senior set an example for the younger players about the price they have to pay in order to win. “Winning the PVL for the second time in two years was amazing,” Sharp said, “and I will always remember it.” That the season ended in an extra-inning loss showed the Zebras had an abundance of resiliency. “No matter what happened today, I was going to be proud of the team,” Freymond said, “because they gave it a good go and we went out battling.” Shelby Jones echoed that sentiment as she hugged each of her teammates one last time. “We always set pre-game goals and to give it everything we could was always one of them,” she said. “I feel like we did that today, win or lose.” Many of the players wiped away tears as they listened to Tofft’s final post-game speech of 2011. Emerson buried her face in her hands at one point to avoid seeing the season come to an end. “Over the course of the season, we became a family, loving and supporting each other,” Emerson said. “Through that support, I gained a lot of confidence not only in the team, but in myself as well.” Where this season ranks will be for others to determine. Tofft’s tears were a testament to how special it was. “There wasn’t one day this season that I didn’t enjoy going to practice,” Tofft said. “They would get mad at each other and they had their ups and downs, but they were resilient.”