The Manila Lady Lions softball team finished regular play with a 16-6 overall record and 13-1 in conference play. They earned the title of 3-A Conference co-champions sharing the top honors with Corning.
Manila played on Monday in the District Tournament hosted by Corning going into the semi-finals. The team received an automatic bid to the Regional Tournament scheduled to start Saturday, May 3, in Harrison.
"Hopefully, we have peaked at just the right time," Coach Jeff Priest said. "Four of our six losses were during the first week and a half of the season."
Since then the team has gone 12-2.
The Manila team is made up of 10 girls including one senior, two juniors, six sophomores and one freshman.
"We are a young team and we have been fortunate to stay healthy and have no injuries," Priest said. "We have 10 players and play nine positions so everyone plays. It has been a team effort. They have done a great job."
Priest said he was surprised at the first of the season to have only 10 girls come out for the team.
"The kids who did come out are committed and hopefully they will keep up the good work and go on to the state tournament for their second consecutive year," he said.
Junior Wise serves as assistant coach for the team.
Team members are senior Heather Dozhier, juniors Colleen Kemp and Chantel Hames, sophomores Kimberly Wise, Katie Donner, Jonna Dodd, Leah Woody, Kristen Painter, Brooke Hill; and freshman Peyton Joyner.
Due to rain five non-conference games were cancelled and games have had to be rescheduled. The team has been playing three and four games a week catching up.
One of the most improvements the team has made is in their batting.
"At the beginning of the year we were striking out a lot but as the season progressed, the girls cut way back on strikeouts putting the ball into play making the defense work for the outs," Priest said.
This is Coach Priest's first year with the Manila District where he serves as senior high girls' basketball coach and softball coach.
The team needs at least one win in regional play to qualify for state competition to be held at Pine Bluff.
The Manila coaches and players have set their goals and plan to work toward them.