The postseason bracket the Northeast Rebels were placed in is intimidating. Their first opponent is the toughest part of it.
The bracket for Class 3A Region 8 includes teams like No. 13 Camanche, a 24-15 Anamosa team, and Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Dyersville Beckman and West Delaware.
The Rebels can think about them later, though. First they have to play No. 3 ranked Davenport Assumption.
"That one is one where we have to play loose," first-year head coach Liz Rueter said. "We can't be stressed, we can't be nervous, we have to come out and play like we normally do."
Assumption boasts a 33-3-1 record in the regular season and is batting nearly .400 as a team.
That's not to put anything past the Rebels. They're batting .362 collectively, with 18 home runs. That's five more dingers than Assumption in 30 less at bats.
Leading the Rebels right now is freshman Neveah Hildebrandt. She has four of the homers and is batting .414 on the season. She had two just the other night against Camanche, showing that she' peaking at the right time.
Rueter wants to see similar play all through her lineup when the first pitch is thrown on Tuesday night in Davenport.
"We're looking to get more consistent bats," Rueter said. "Right now, either the top of the lineup is batting or the bottom of the lineup is batting. We want to get a solid 1-9 hitting and that's what we're looking for right now."
"Whether it's playing small ball more or just trying to get our bats down, that's what we're trying to move into the postseason."
Northeast has been scoring big runs all year, but where Rueter has seen the most improvement is in the field. She thinks that will be what they can utilize most when they meet the Knights. After all, you only need one run to win if your opponent doesn't ever touch home plate.
"Defensively, we've been hitting our cuts, we've been doing what we need to, we've been slowing down our errors," Rueter said. "Defensively we've made huge improvements."
Natalie Spooner and Casidy Dondiego are the only seniors suiting up for the Rebels this year. That leaves a whole lot of freshman and sophomores filling key roles in the lineup.
That also means a lack of postseason experience. Rueter says mental preparation is going to be key, especially taking on a team like Assumption on the road in the first round.
"The mental key is not letting the stress and nerves get to you. In a district game, it's more stress and nerve-wracking and we have a lot of young girls," Rueter said. "Them being more mentally prepared and more 'I can do this', that's the key."