It's hard to find things to work on when a team goes 24-2 and wins a county, conference and sectional championship.
That said, there's a feeling from almost the entire squad back from last season; a similar outcome for the South Putnam Eagles' softball squad would be a major disappointment.
Falling only to 3A powerhouse Edgewood in the regular season and 2A state runner-up Linton-Stockton in the regional, the Eagles blasted through most of the schedule and found ways to win when pressed to do so within WCC and Putnam County play.
Having lost only Krystal Welch from last year's squad, Eagles head coach Chris Jones and the 2A No. 8 Eagles are set to continue their winning ways, knowing full well that every team on the schedule will have their undivided attention fixed on knocking them off.
"The girls coming back got some postseason experience and a lot of game experience because we did play quite a few games. I think that will help us. We were under some adversity when we went to Linton, playing in that type of environment and that type of crowd," Jones said.
"I think the biggest benefit is the experience, the situational experience. It's not last year's team. There are some new girls here who are going to have to embrace different roles that they have for this year," Jones added."
The experience level of the squad is not necessarily in age.
Featuring only one senior and four juniors, the bulk of the squad is made up of sophomores and freshmen, many of whom saw significant time last season, but need a guiding force to get through the season, something the departing senior of last year gave the Eagles.
"We only lost Krystal Welch. She brought us a lot of speed on the bases and in the outfield. She also brought a lot of vocal leadership in the field, constantly encouraging her teammates defensively. In the dugout, she was very vocal about situational things as well," Jones said.
"We need more people to step up as vocal leaders and as leaders in general. As the girls get older, different groups step up and become leaders for the team each year, and that's what were looking for."
Finding the right mix of players will be key to the Eagles' success.
"We have 11 of our 12 girls from last year's team back and added four newcomers to the team. Some of the girls may have different roles. Most of them will have similar roles in the field or with the bats. It's still early to see," Jones added.
"The key is going to be to find the best fit game by game to have the most success. So far, the girls have done a good job of embracing the various positions we've put them in and circumstances in practice to get them prepared for that first game," Jones said.
Those returning include lone senior Megan Barnes, returning two-time Putnam County Player of the Year Brooke Boetjer, Jenny Thompson, Kaylin Yon, Emily Dabkowski, Kelsey Whitaker, Brenly Bratcher, Jenna Jones, Nikki York, Janet Crafton and Mattie Varvel.
The Eagles also add sophomore Abbi Speedy, along with freshmen Brooke Cundiff, MaKenzie Trisler and Destiny Tomasino. All fifteen players, though, are expected to provide at times throughout the year, according to Jones.
"I expect all of them to step up at some point or another. Who it's going to be, I don't know yet. I think it will be multiple girls in various games to be honest. I also think the newcomers will help us some," Jones mentioned.
"I think they can, as can the girls who didn't get to play as much last year. I like to think of it as a wide open competition every year for positions. That's what we've got and that's what we're working through right now."
Even with a giant bull's-eye on their backs in the view of all the teams they will compete against, Jones wants to see the squad perform up to their capabilities from the start.
"I want us to compete in every game. I honestly want us to play the best we can every single game, to give our best effort regardless of where we're playing, who we're playing, what the circumstances are. If we do that, we can have success," Jones said.
"You try not to look at records as far as goals go. 24-2 was a nice record we had last year. This is not last year. We are 0-0 and we have to work from that point. If we can come focused and ready to play every game, we'll have success."
"I think a goal every year is to advance farther than the year before," Jones added. "The regular season process is what gets you ready for the postseason. We've talked briefly about long term goals and those are over as far as us speaking about them until that time. We're ready to focus on ourselves and be ready for Cloverdale on April 4."
Aiming to continue what has been a long and dominating stretch for the South Putnam softball program, Jones said taking anything for granted is a mistake the Eagles can ill-afford to make. A group effort, though, could lead them further than they have been before.
"It's still a difficult conference to win. Games often come on back to back nights. It's tough to get up both nights sometimes. Good teams, great team, focus in and play well both nights and play the best they can both nights. That is our ultimate goal, to play each game with the utmost focus and effort," Jones said.
"I'm looking forward to this season. The girls are great as far as the effort they give, the focus that they have and the dedication that they have to the sport. I'm just looking forward to the season, having the opportunity to improve every game and every practice. April 4 can't come soon enough."