It's been quite a while since you could say anything about a Prince of Peace softball team.
The school hasn't fielded a team since the 2007 season. This year that changed, with a young and energetic team starting up for the Irish. That team includes one junior—the rest are underclassman.
The team is playing a JV schedule this year.
That means it's a brand new opportunity for coaching staff as well. Emily Hoague is the head coach for the Irish, coming from the Clinton High School softball program. When she was asked about rebooting the softball program at POP, she said absolutely.
While there is a learning curve, she's coaching a talented group of athletes.
"All these girls are multi-sport athletes," Hoague said. "They're playing volleyball, they're playing basketball and to have them committed to softball is pretty great, too."
That includes athletes like Anabel Blount, Isabel Hansen, and Sophie Griffin who you could see on the basketball court, at the volleyball net or running cross country. Ava Ruden is another multi-sport freshman.
"The most exciting thing is just to see how far we can go," Ruden said. "We started off not really knowing anything about it so just our improvement that we've made so far."
That might have been the hardest part for the young team so far: inexperience.
"We hadn't really thought about it but once the idea came up we thought it would be fun to do it together and see where it goes," Ruden said. "It took a lot of practices to figure out how to even catch a ball or throw it. We've come a long way already."
That's also a benefit, though. It's a new beginning, a clean slate.
"The thing is, we don't have to correct bad habits," assistant coach Katie Flood said. "We can start fresh. I catch myself saying some sayings, and they don't understand."
Flood, a Prince of Peace alum, was on the last varsity softball team to exist. That makes this reboot of the program a little more special for her.
"I helped coach the basketball girls, too. This is really my favorite sport, and I thought I could contribute," Flood said. "It's been fun. The fun thing about Prince of Peace is you have the girls in all sports. You get to know their personalities in different sports and it's fun to watch."
Small school and small team, but big personalities. That's how the coaches and athletes describe their roster this season.
"My teammates are supportive and exciting to be around," Ruden said, adding the word "goofy" with a laugh. "They make the sport so much better to be a part of because they're so much fun."
And Hoague: "They're diverse. We talk about softball IQ a lot and they're all on different levels on IQ. After every practice we ask what's one thing they learned today and they all tell you different answers. It just kind of works. None of them are alike and they all have their own ways of doing stuff so it keeps things interesting."
After a long spring of teaching the game to them, they're finally getting underway with a few JV match ups on the diamond. That's when the Irish really get to see what they're trying to be in the next few years.
"When we played, the first thing the girls said was 'That didn't go as bad as we thought it would'," coach Hoague said. "What's nice is that they're just learning everything. They see that if we do lose, we're playing girls who have been playing five times as long as we have."
Keeping their heads up during the learning curve is key. But, they're off to a strong start.
"The obstacle is making sure they stay positive," Hoague said. "They need to know that they're going to have growing pains before they make a name for themselves in the conference."