Before the first pitch of the 2013 high school softball season, Pine Valley coach Danielle Arnone told her team she had lofty expectations.
And as the team stumbled throughout the regular season, Arnone never wavered and continued to believe her team was championship caliber.
Now, after a remarkable run through the Section 6 Class D playoffs and a 2-1 victory in the Far West Regionals, Arnone and the Lady Panthers are the ones with the last laugh as they will compete in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four this morning at Morse Field at the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury.
Pictured are the 2013 Pine Valley Lady Panthers, the Section 6 Class D champions. Pine Valley plays in the New York State?Public High School Athletic Association Final Four in Queensbury today against second-ranked Fort Ann.
"We were all in kind of disbelief of where we are at, and at the same time it was crazy," Arnone said describing the bus ride home from Olean after the Far West victory. "At the beginning of the season, I told the girls how I felt, even without knowing what to expect from teams we were going to play in the league.
"There were definitely some days where I was frustrated and the girls knew that," Arnone said about the regular season woes. "I am vocal on how I am feeling, especially because I have high expectations. I kept telling them no matter what we do, come playoff time, everything is forgotten and it's starting all over. Having that attitude doesn't allow you to get discouraged."
And just like the baseball team, Pine Valley will take on Fort Ann.
The Lady Cardinals are the second-ranked team in the state with a 22-0 record.
Fort Ann already has an edge as it is located just a few miles from Queensbury, while Pine Valley must travel roughly six hours.
See SOFTBALL, Page B2
"They will have a slight advantage in that regard," Arnone said. "We just take it as it is. We are focusing on the little things and at same time, telll them to enjoy the experience and be grateful we are here. So many teams can't experience what we are going through."
Pine Valley has climbed to the No. 9 spot in the state rankings with an 8-8 record.
Despite the difference in records, Arnone says confidence is all that matters.
'As a coach, you want to make sure your girls know you are good and realize that. Confidence is so huge. For them to feel confident is such an important aspect of the game. I truly believe the attitude we have had a at practice has helped us. We know what we can accomplish. There is nothing the girls feel they can't do. Even when we were down, we feel we can win. The group of girls we have, they are pretty confident and never give up.
"There are no words to express the emotions of how we are all feeling than pure happiness."