COLLEGE STATION — Quite often in sports, be it at the professional, collegiate or high school level, coaches and players will mention “team unity” as being a key component to success.
The Salado Lady Eagles softball team has taken the concept of team unity to a new level. Certainly it’s a new level for them.
After a 3-0 Game 2 win Saturday over Woodville in College Station, the Lady Eagles softball team advanced into the Elite Eight, the regional championships, for the first time in school history.
And the key? Ohana.
“Ohana,” said Salado junior designated hitter Grace Tauferner, who had the go-ahead RBI single Saturday. “Without ‘Ohana’ we would never have advanced this far. No way. I can say this with 100 percent certainty: ‘Ohana’ was the key for us and it’s still the key for us.”
In Hawaiian culture, “Ohana” means family. The Lady Eagles shout “Ohana” in unity when they arrive at the field. They yell it in unison before every game. They yell it after any type of team huddle. They yell it again after each contest.
“We came up with it last year,” said junior right fielder Kristen Oakes, who earned KDHPressbox.com Player of the Week earlier this month for her two-RBI game in a 5-1 playoff win over Teague. “We made it to the second round of the playoffs last year. But this year, we’ve been saying it a lot more and we really live it. We’ve meshed together so well this year. We are a family, we are one team. ‘Ohana’ is the key to our success because it takes a team, a family, to be successful at this game.”
“You have to play for each other,” Tauferner said. “That’s what ‘Ohana’ is all about. We’ve chanted it so much and we believe in it. For instance, if someone strikes out, you want to pick up that teammate. If someone makes an error, you don’t get down on that player — you encourage them.”
CeCe Cantu is Salado’s fear-nothing third baseman. Brooks Robinson would enjoy watching a highlight film of Cantu.
“We believe in ‘Ohana’ and it reminds us that we’re all one family out here,” Cantu said. “We’re a unit and we love each other no matter what — and that’s still true no matter what the outcome of the games are.”
Lately, of course, the outcomes of Salado’s games have all been pretty good. Seven playoff contests played, seven straight wins.
Salado senior Shyenne Hicks made several slick plays at first base on Saturday.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that we’re going to the Elite Eight and that my senior year of playing softball is not over,” Hicks said. “We are all a family on this team, that’s what Ohana’ means. We’re all super close. It definitely helps us play better that we’re such a close team.”
Salado’s superstar senior pitcher Morgan Hill is willing to laugh at how the phrase “Ohana” made its way into Lady Eagle huddles. But she’s a big believer in how it affects her squad.
“We got it from a Disney movie, a Disney cartoon,” Hill said with a chuckle. “But it is something we believe in. Today we played like a family.
“We always yell ‘Ohana’ and that’s what we are — a family. We play for each other. We trust each other. We enjoy chanting ‘Ohana’ because it has a great deal of meaning to us.”
Salado shortstop Malory Schattle went up to the plate three times Saturday. She saw 12 pitches that were closer to the dugout than home plate. Yeah, Woodville put the hot-hitting sophomore slugger on base three times.
“We’re a true team,” Schattle said. “I would say ‘Ohana’ is a major key to our success. We’re going after the world right now — and nothing can stop us right now.”
And who’d want to debate Schattle?
If you argued with her, you’d be dealing not just with her, but all the members of her Ohana.
Contact Allan Mandell at email@example.com or 254-501-7566â€‹ and read his blog at KDHPressbox.com