Since moving up to Wesco 4A two years ago, the Glacier Peak softball team has been overshadowed by the trio of Jackson, Monroe and Lake Stevens.
The Grizzlies were a good team, but got lost in the shuffle of an ultra-tough league that placed two squads in last season’s Class 4A state title game.
This year, Glacier Peak is ready to make its presence known.
Led by four college-bound players who are either signed or committed to play Division I or Division II softball, the Grizzlies are eyeing an ascension into Wesco 4A’s top tier.
“We have a lot of talent this year,” Glacier Peak junior Phoebe Schultz said. “I think this is our year to actually really make an impact.”
Over the past two seasons, the Grizzlies went 26-4 against teams other than Jackson, Monroe and Lake Stevens — including a perfect 20-0 against the bottom half of the eight-team Wesco 4A. But against the league’s top three programs, Glacier Peak was just 1-15 during that span.
The Grizzlies finished fourth in Wesco 4A two years ago and tied for third last season with Monroe, which made a run to the state championship game.
“The past couple years, we just haven’t really been able to push through and win those tough games,” Glacier Peak senior Harlee Carpenter said. “But this year, I definitely think we can do it. … I think we’re one of the most stacked teams in the league and we have a lot of potential.”
The Grizzlies’ high hopes begin with the return of seven starters, including their college-bound quartet. Kendall Curtis is signed to play Division I softball at Montana, Carpenter is signed with Central Washington, Ashley Jacobson is a Division I commit to Stony Brook in New York and Schultz is committed to Dixie State in Utah.
“It doesn’t happen every day,” Glacier Peak coach Stefanie Celix said of her team’s college-bound talent. “I’m blessed to have these girls on my team.”
“These are four girls who, through their humility, you don’t even think about the fact that they’ve already signed (or committed) to go to college,” Grizzlies assistant coach Teri Corwin added. “Because they’re so about team, their leadership and just being here for one another, you don’t think about that.”
That team-first attitude has translated into what both players and coaches described as improved team chemistry from years past.
“You always hear about playing for the team on the front (of the jersey), not the name on the back,” Celix said. “And that’s what this team is. … They are fully invested in the process and in each other. They’re about playing for each other this year.
“These girls are there to support one another, good or bad,” she added. “And that’s what’s going to make a difference.”
Glacier Peak, which averaged 8.5 runs per game last season, is led by a hard-hitting lineup.
Curtis batted .542 last year with three home runs and 11 extra-base hits. Carpenter, a lefty slugger, hit .492 with three homers and 16 extra-base hits. Schultz batted .400 with six homers and 12 extra-base hits, and Jacobson hit .323.
The Grizzlies scored 13 runs in Wednesday’s non-league win over Meadowdale, highlighted by homers from Curtis and Schultz.
“All four of these girls are hitters,” Celix said. “They’re smart hitters, they’re committed hitters and they can move the ball around the field. … (And) all four of those girls can put it over the fence.”
Yet, it’s not just those four batters who excel at the plate.
“One to nine, we have solid hitters,” Carpenter said. “There’s no weak link or anything. I can trust anyone to go up there and get the job done.”
And though hitting was already a team strength in recent years, Celix said she’s noticed improvements at the plate this season.
“We’re hitting with more intention, we’re hitting with more power and we’re using the offensive strategy better this year,” she said.
Defensively, Glacier Peak is steadied by the middle-infield tandem of Carpenter at shortstop and Curtis at second base. The two benefit from playing the same positions together on their select team.
“It’s really nice,” Curtis said. “We understand each other well, and I feel like that helps us in our communication. … We have so much confidence in each other.”
Jacobson plays first base for the Grizzlies and Schultz anchors the outfield. Sophomore pitcher Makayla Miller and sophomore catcher Haley Winckler comprise the battery for Glacier Peak.
“Our infield is set,” Jacobson said. “We have a really good pitcher. Our hitting is great one through nine, and we really have a lot of power this year. I think we’ll do big things.”
“I’m excited to see where they’re going to go with this,” Celix added. “They want to be their best every day, and with that attitude, we can do anything.”