It’s nothing new to Aledo High School when students and faculty send off one of its athletic teams to the state tournament.
The process was replayed Thursday when the cafeteria filled up with hundreds of students to congratulate and wish the school’s softball team success at the UIL Class 4A state tournament in Austin.
“Our spirit is day-to-day. Everyone is wearing their state champion shirts. In two years, softball has been there twice, football won it this year, volleyball and basketball went last year, and girls golf went twice, so that’s the theme today, it’s what we do,” coach Jeff Lemon said.
The girls and coaches walked through the building, smiling, hugging and laughing with peers as they boarded the bus to make the three-hour drive to Austin, where they’ll take on Buda Hays in the semifinals Friday.
Fellow students, classmates and teachers all gathered to cheer on the team as the band played in the background.
“I’m just glad to see them go back this year and hope they do what we did in football,” said Corbin Bullington, a lineman from the 2013 championship football team. “They’re excited to get back there and face the team that beat them last year.”
Most of the students were just glad to be out of class for a while, but other students know that sending teams off is always a good way to start.
“I think this is a good thing because it helps hype up the players’ spirits and gets them excited,” sophomore Stephanie Akin said.
Most of the team consists of returners, all of who went through the same experience when the team made last year’s tournament, but fell in the semifinals to Hays, the eventual champion.
“It’s exactly what we wanted. We wanted revenge and we’re ready to beat them,” senior Kori Kizer said.
Even though the team went to the tournament last season, there’s definitely a different feel this year for Lemon and the players.
“It was very emotional last year, just making it to state, where this year we expected to be here and we expect to go down there and do well,” Lemon said.
“The seniors also know it’s a different tournament and that they’re ready to take it all.”
Said senior Ally Gabbert: “Last year, we didn’t even think about winning. We were just happy to be there. This year, we feel like we’re going to win it all.”
“The expectations were higher this year because we didn’t lose anybody, so we were more driven to go to state,” senior Haylee Bowden said. “Last year, we just did the best we could, we made state, and this year we didn’t want to fall short.”
The team boarded the bus to drive through Aledo, stopping at all the elementary and middle schools to get a glimpse of the community and all the children, before beginning its trip.
“I think we’ve had a lot more fan support this year,” senior Bailey Thomas said. “I think they’re more excited, too, because they’ve been following us all season. It’s very humbling to see everyone come out and support us.”