The Florence Lady Buffaloes have had almost no room for error for the last couple of weeks, so another pressure-packed game is not unusual for head coach Brett Gola.
Florence (11-13, 6-8) had to win three out of its last four games to force a tie for fourth place in District 22-2A and will take part in a Monday tiebreaker at Little River-Academy.
Cameron Yoe and Lexington will play at 4:30 p.m., with the winner facing Florence 30 minutes later for a shot at the Class 2A playoffs.
Gola talked with the Herald’s Albert Alvarado about the season and some of the Lady Buffs’ standout players.
What are your thoughts on the regular season?
I thought we played fairly well. We had some really high points to our season and we were competitive and played a lot of good teams this year. To be competitive as we were against a lot of state-ranked opponents meant a lot. We’re excited about the way we competed this year and the years we have with this group.
You and some of the players were at Friday’s Salado-Cameron Yoe game. Was it difficult to watch with your playoff hopes on the line?
Yeah, we talked a lot about controlling our own destiny and it was kind of out of our hands today. It had some anxious moments, but Salado jumped out early, so that took away some of the tension and we could relax a little bit as the game went on.
How important has Samantha Vaughan’s leadership been this season?
Sam has been a great senior leader for us — her being the only senior and one of the only two holdovers we had from the 0-19 season a couple of years ago. Just to watch her with this group, how she embraced the youth on our team and how she tried to lead by example, our kids know that they can always count on her to come through for them. Especially of late, she’s been seeing the ball well and been instrumental in our success.
How great is it to have ace pitcher Mackenzie Futrell and No. 2 Emily Gray?
We’re really comfortable with both of our pitchers. For Emily to perform the way that she has as a freshman really says a lot about her makeup. Mackenzie did a great job last year as our only pitcher. We’re a year more seasoned, so Emily has a group of experienced kids behind her from last year, so that really helped her out. She’s really been pitching well of late.
Futrell, Madison Hill and Courtney Culp are your best hitters and are all underclassmen. So how excited does that make you for the future?
We started six freshmen last year and at times we’ve started three more freshmen this year. Those kids have done a great job of rising to the occasion when need be.