The Gold Standard

When Margo Leiter scans high school softball results in The Herald, her excitement surges.

She often reads about the latest achievements of gifted fastpitch players like Jordan Birch of Monroe, Cory Mattson of Everett and Ashley Todd of Jackson.

Why is Leiter so happy? It’s because she gets to coach a dazzling array of local standouts that dominate local sports pages and essentially represent a softball dream team.

As head coach of the Lake Stevens-based Lake Breeze Gold select squad, Leiter guides an impressive collection of talented athletes who star in the spring for their prep teams. The rest of the year, they unite to take on the nation’s top competitors at prestigious tournaments around the country.

Leiter’s current Lake Breeze team, which features sophomores, juniors and seniors, includes 10 players from the Western and Cascade Conferences (see graphic). Leiter, who started the Lake Breeze program in 1997, said it’s the finest collection of talent she’s ever assembled: “This is probably by far the best full team I’ve ever had.”

That’s quite a statement coming from Leiter, a longtime high school coach at Lake Stevens who resigned in 2003 so she could watch her two daughters play college softball. Dozens of Leiter’s Lake Breeze alums have gone on to compete in college, including current standouts like Gina Carbonatto (Lake Stevens, University of the Pacific), Amy Hudson (Everett, Central Michigan) and Christie Robinson (South Whidbey, UNLV).

All three seniors on Leiter’s current Lake Breeze squad accepted scholarships to play in college. Marysville-Pilchuck utility player Miranda Rosebrook and Jackson second baseman/outfielder Jenna Mohrweis signed with Western Washington, and non-local pitcher Britt Howell of Concrete is headed to East Carolina.

Lake Breeze also features three outstanding junior pitchers – Birch, Mattson and Cedarcrest’s Hillary Barker – who will likely be able to pick from a barrage of scholarship offers. Combined with Howell, the junior trio gives Lake Breeze a potent pitching attack that might be the team’s No. 1 strength.

“This is our strongest year of pitching,” Mohrweis said. “We have four amazing pitchers that bring different aspects. We know we can count on them.”

“You can really trust them,” said Rosebrook, “because they’re good at hitting their locations.”

During the high school season, Lake Breeze teammates become adversaries and pass on insider information to their prep peers. It creates an interesting juggling act.

“We want the best for each other,” Mohrweis said, “but we also want to get a hit off them.”

“I guess we’re kind of the source for our high school team to tell them the secrets,” noted Rosebrook.

Head-to-head competition is intense but fun, they said. When Lake Breeze reunites, which happens for practice a few Sundays per month, there are no hard feelings. In fact, the current group of select stars enjoys a bond that belies its relatively brief time together. Their last tourney was in January and the next one isn’t until June.

“Out of all the years I’ve been on the team, this year seems more special than the past years just ‘cause all the girls have meshed together really well,” Rosebrook said. “We haven’t all really known each other that long but it seems like we’ve been playing together multiple years.”

Sometimes all-star teams sputter. Egos get in the way and players who are used to getting all the attention don’t accept a supporting role. But this group avoids such drama.

“It’s really fun playing with everyone,” Mohrweis said, “because no one’s really a standout and we all just kind of come together.”

Leiter, who guided Lake Breeze to the national championships last year, said she once considered getting into college coaching, and she still maintains connections with many coaches at that level. But she simply has a blast refining the skills of prep players and watching Lake Breeze alums enjoy success after high school.

“It’s been really neat watching the kids develop and grow and just have really great experiences,” she said.

So what attracts so many talented athletes to Lake Breeze? The key, Rosebrook and Mohrweis agreed, is the coach. Leiter creates a competitive, rewarding atmosphere, they said. She requires maximum effort but she’s also extremely encouraging, added Mohrweis.

In short, Leiter effectively molds a cast of stellar individuals into a fun-loving dream team.

“There are (select) teams out there that are good,” Rosebrook said, “but you can see that they’re not having fun together. But you can totally see that we have fun when we play.”

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