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Belles take 3rd in state tourney

The Luverne Belles All-Star team finished runner up in district play and third at the state level. The team took its final lose to AUM, 14-3. Submitted Photo

By: Scott McLendon

The Luverne Belles took valiant, historic strides into this year’s state tournament in Montgomery, but fell short of the title at the hands of AUM this past Sunday.

“These girls have been playing together for awhile,” said head coach

Kip Smith. “They’re from ages 13 to 15 years old, so they’ve been playing ball together for about six to eight years. They can start at 5 years old. You just build a big bond over that time. They just enjoy playing ball together. Of the 12 girls on the team, seven go to Luverne High School, three go to Highland Home, one from CCA and one from another school.. The seven that go to Luverne also played on the high school team this past year. They’ve just grown together and it’s just a big family.”

According to the Alabama High School Athletic Association website, students entering the 7th grade become eligible for high school sports, a requirement these girls meet. The success of Crenshaw County’s softball teams is no secret and some of these girls will earn the opportunity to carry on this tradition of athletic excellence.

“All the kids want to represent their school,” Smith said.  “When you get to school ball you have some that don’t make the high school team so they go to recreation ball. Some of those on the high school players also go to recreation ball. This is another place for them to mingle.”

This group of girls earned a spot at the state tournament in Montgomery by virtue of their runners-up title at the district level.

“They learned a lot of teamwork and how to trust each other; there’s a lot of trust in there,” Smith said. You can see that there’s a lot of love in there among them. They know what each one can do once they’ve played together so long. They learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses and they adapt to that.”

“The girls played really good, we just didn’t put a good game together on the last night,” he said. “My thoughts to them afterwards were that we had a good season and we played hard, but we came up short. This group of girls has done better than any other in their age group in Luverne history. The best that a 13 to 15 year old group had done was 6th in the state tournament in Eufala about 12 years ago. If you look at how the brackets went, we were the fifth team eliminated from the tournament, which actually places us in 4th place. But, the team that got put out next and finished third in the tournament is one we beat. We gave them their first loss of the tournament. So you can say we finished fourth or third.”

Smith says that the third place finish wasn’t ideal, but the team played well and showed diligence.

“I was really complimentary of the girls. They played really hard and as a team. The kids are the big driving force, but the main thing is the dedication of the parents. They have to go above and beyond too. They sacrifice at work by taking vacation days to go watch the kids play. It’s a big expense going to this. Sure, it’s all about the kids, but the parents deserve just as much praise as the kids do.”