Alcovy Lady Tigers' 2019 Softball Schedule
BOLD = Home Game
* = Region Game
Tuesday July 25 vs. Putnam County (scrimmage), 6:30 p.m.
Monday August 5, at Eagle’s Landing, 5:55 p.m.
Thursday August 8, vs. Eastside, 5:55 p.m.
Saturday August 10 vs. Monroe Area at Oglethorpe County 12 p.m
Saturday August 10, at Oglethorpe County, 2 p.m.
Tuesday August 13, vs. Newton, 7 p.m.
*Thursday August 15, vs. Lakeside (doubleheader), 4:30, 6:30 p.m.
*Tuesday August 20, at Evans (doubleheader), 4:30, 6:30 p.m.
*Thursday August 22 at Heritage, 5 p.m.
Monday August 26, at Rockdale, 5:30 p.m.
*Tuesday August 27, at Greenbrier (doubleheader), 5 & 7 p.m.
*Thursday August 29, vs. Grovetown (doubleheader), 4:30, 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday Sept. 4, vs. North Oconee, 6:30 p.m.
Monday Sept. 9, at Putnam County, 5 p.m.
Tuesday Sept. 10 at Decatur, 6:30 p.m.
*Thursday Sept. 12 vs. Heritage, 5 p.m.
Monday Sept. 16, at North Oconee, 6:30 p.m.
Thursday Sept. 19 vs. Rockdale, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday Sept. 24, at Morgan County, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday Sept. 26 at Eastside, 5:55 p.m.
COVINGTON, GA -- As the Alcovy softball team ran to the dugout for the second hour of their first day of practice, it was clear that Miranda Lamb wasn't going to wait until the 2019 season started to push her squad.
“I don’t want to see any walking,” said Lamb, the Lady Tigers' second-year head coach.
The baby-faced former softball player is a year stronger in terms of finding her voice at the program's helm. While an assistant coach, Lamb was described by players as quieter and more reserved as she played her role as an extension of then-head coach Kelli Wesley.
Now, after a 2018 campaign where Lamb led the Lady Tigers to a 13-12 overall record -- more wins than in the previous two seasons combined -- and brought them to within one win of qualifying for the Class AAAAAA state tournament, the players say Lamb has become more and more demanding and has set the standards higher than in previous coaches’ tenures.
More than a year after Alcovy principal, and former athletic director, Kristopher Williams promoted Lamb to full-time head coach after spending time as an assistant, Alcovy is entrenched in a new culture. The Tigers have spent years with up and down success. But after narrowly missing the postseason last year, there is an unmistakably high level of optimism around the program.
“I'm not as nervous coming into summer practices and everything of, you know, worrying about what people are going to expect of me,” Lamb said. “I feel like we kind of set the bar high last year. We know we didn't make the state playoffs. But we really did improve from the previous years. And hopefully, we're getting our cubby back on the map.”
After more than doubling their 2017 season's win total last year, Lamb and company know it’s going to take a concerted effort from the staff and buy-in from the players to continue an upward trend.
However, Lamb doesn’t feel any extra responsibility from the outside to make sure that there is more immediate success.
“I put pressure on myself -- I'm hard on myself, Lamb said. “However, I don't know if other people knew that I did not feel it from, like, administration, from [the] athletic director or anything. [Williams] wanted somebody that could be a positive influence on these girls. And I hope, if nothing else, that I've been that person for them, and to let them know that, hey, we can we can get out of Covington and we can do things.”
Continued on-field success is never guaranteed from year to year. And after losing four seniors to graduation, the team will have to rely on fresh talent and a new crop of seven seniors, including multifaceted pitcher Mackenzie Rodgers.
"I'm excited to have Mackenzie's leadership both in the pitching circle and in the infield this year," Lamb said.
With such leadership -- and given the near miss last year -- it's no wonder that the tangible goal of a playoff berth is prominent on coaches and players' minds alike.
But there are intangible goals as well -- namely shaping the team into a unit that is unified and less splintered than in the years before Lamb.
In seasons past, the team had suffered from different factions which splintered camaraderie and created tensions.
“[Coach Lamb] wants us to win,” said senior third baseman Talacia “Laci,” Thompson. “She wants us to work hard. She wants us to be leaders. She wants us to be loud, talk to each other and make each other feel comfortable and just to be a team. She really just wants us to be a team. Because in years past, we were, like, really separated and grouped off with each other, but (Lamb) really wants us to come together as one and be a good team.”
Under Lamb, players note the difference of how her leadership style has quelled the separating while fostering a more welcoming environment. Such a culture change makes it easier to realistically start talking about winning.
“[This upcoming season we want] to win more games,” senior Janae Bellamy said. “[We want] to go to a championship for state, and just to play better than we ever did before any other years before. [We also want] to prove a point that we're good.”
With a team of athletes, it’s natural for there to be a level of contention between a group of highly competitive individuals, but having a singular common goal can sometimes help to remedy that.
Thompson has explicitly put the onus on herself and her fellow upperclassmen to make sure the team is all on one accord.
“We [as seniors] have to be leaders out here and really come hard this year, because it's my last year and I want to make it to the state finals,” Thompson said. “And I want to go all the way, so I just got to push the team, and we all gotta work together.”
Lamb is beginning to take the energy of wanting a new narrative surrounding Alcovy softball and has turned it into a rigorous training schedule. Before Monday’s workout, Lamb gave the girls a training regimen that spanned across June until the first day of practice.
Lamb says that she was able to see who took the workouts seriously over the summer, and of course, those who didn’t.
For players like Bellamy, it was apparent for her as well. The running before practice made it evident that Lamb is upping the ante.
“[Coach] really did it to [help us] push ourselves more to get better overall as a team, not just individually,” Bellamy said.
The season begins shortly -- on Tuesday August 5, as a matter of fact, when Alcovy travels to Eagles Landing in McDonough for a 5:55 p.m. first pitch. And make no mistake, there are indeed some expectations for the Tigers to create a new chapter at Alcovy. With the hiring of a new athletic director in Thomas Lowe and several other recent athletic department personnel shifts, things have already started looking different for the school, but Lamb and the team want to take it further.
“That's absolutely the goal,” Lamb said. "That's what I wanted to do in both sports – I coach basketball as well. But we haven't made it to state in either sport that I've coached since I've been here, and it's time. It is time. I'm ready to experience that. I have experience in state playoffs as a player, not as a coach. And I'm excited to see how that feels, and to really turn that pressure on in playoff games.”