CHAUMONT When thinking of successful high school sports programs in the area, Lyme softball isnt one that comes to mind.
It might even be last on your list.
But first-year coach Tony Gullo and his 2013 squad are committed to slowly changing that perception.
Gullo, who coached at Immaculate Heart Central from 2004-11, took over the program last summer and made his presence felt immediately by organizing offseason workouts. Fourth-year senior Mikayla Warren said that was a first in her tenure.
At first I think we were kind of nervous because were like Oh, weve never played softball outside of softball season before, said Warren, who has played for a different coach in each of her four varsity seasons.
But once we got going, we thought that we could really change softball for Lyme.
The program has already seen results from that culture change. The Indians opened the season with a 9-1 victory over Copenhagen its first win since 2007.
We were singing and dancing and taking pictures, Warren said. It was huge. It was a great start for us with a new team, a young team this year, to get that under our belts, to get that feeling of what an actual win feels like.
That feeling of victory is something Warren, and all of her teammates, had never enjoyed before this years 2-5 start.
Last year all but two of the Indians losses were by double-digit runs. As the losses piled up through the years, Warren said it was tough to identify a particular low point.
The past four years overall have been a low point, really, Warren said. Its hard going from losing game after game after game.
And its pretty hard because you have to get used to a new coach every year and them getting used to you, it takes a while to build that up, she added.
But with Gullo stepping in, the Indians saw a chance to start new.
We kind of let the past be the past and we decided this is a new year, a new team, a new coach. Were going to build from the beginning, Warren said.
One of Gullos objectives entering the season was making sure the team understood that they didnt need to carry the weight of a six-year losing streak.
We dont take accountability or responsibility for any other team, Gullo said. The coaches worked hard, the girls worked hard and whatever their season produced, theyre accountable for that. Were 0-0 (to start the season), we dont have a losing streak. Now here at the school, thats our history, but thats not this teams history. This is the first year this team has ever been together and we had never lost a game.
Thats not just something the coach was trying to sell them, thats the deal. Thats reality, Gullo added. And they came out and really played strong the first game, so they understood that.
And while Lyme will still take its lumps this year, like Tuesdays 15-1 loss to perennial power Sandy Creek, the process of building a program with consistency and stability is under way.
I think this is really important to get this going now, and I dont mind helping at all, said Warren, who wants to see the program thriving while her sister and teammate, 8th-grader Morgan Warren, is still playing for Lyme.
Warren is one of just two seniors and three upperclassmen for the Indians. The team starts six freshmen and an eighth-grader.
That group is led by freshman pitcher Taylor Brown, whom Gullo referred to as the hardest worker in the program.
We got a nice opportunity here. We got a nice core group, Gullo said. Lets put the time in, lets work hard and season by season, year by year, we can build into a strong team that can have success. But at the same time, you want to keep it in the moment and understand that, though that can be the future of the program, theres a right here and a right now, and we need to keep our focus so we can have success this season.