North Georgia College & State University softball coach Mike Davenport has always stressed for his program not to chase trophies, even though the Lady Saints have collected quite a collection of hardware the past four seasons since becoming postseason eligible as an NCAA program.
Fresh off North Georgia's third consecutive trip to the College World Series, the disappointment of not winning the Division II national title is still fresh among its players, but at the same time, realize the sky is the limit for this program in the future.
"I think it gets lost in the scheme of things that to make three consecutive trips to the College World Series is a remarkable accomplishment," Davenport said. "Our goal as a team are going to stay the same next year to play to the best of our ability at all times."
This year, the Lady Saints (53-12 overall) won its opener in the Women's College World Series against Indiana (Pa.) on May 26, but lost the next two games against Alabama-Huntsville and Saginaw Valley State to end its run at the softball championships in Salem, Va.
"We are very fortunate and thankful that we made it to the College World Series again this season, but because of a couple of tough breaks we weren't able to win it," junior third baseman Hilary Cox said.
"For the student-athletes, it's harder to see what they've accomplished right off the bat," Davenport said. "The kids are disappointed and that's their pride coming out.
"It takes a while for the sting of losing to go away."
A combination of missing much of the regular season with a broken foot and the realization that the Lady Saints are close to being able to put it all together for another national championship chase has left Cox especially eager for next season.
And it's only the first week of June.
Expectations are going to be just as high for North Georgia next year with only one player at each level of the defense graduating, including catcher Natasha Willemse, pitcher Sarah Phillips, shortstop Kasey Knight and right fielder Kayla Martin.
All three of the Lady Saints' freshmen this season started at some time in the year with outfielder Katie Garrett, Sarah Johnson and Ansley Williams, a Peach Belt All-Conference Selection.
Even though Phillips is graduating the Lady Saints as a player, she is going to get to stay on board with the program next year as a graduate assistant.
Phillips was right in the middle of things as a player as the Lady Saints increased their win total each year during her career starting with 38 in 2008 (their first as a postseason eligible NCAA program), to 51-straight wins going into the College World Series in 2010, followed by 53 victories this year.
"Whether we won it or not, I feel very proud about what we've accomplished," Phillips said.
Phillips and Cox both agree that the root of the success at North Georgia is Davenport.
They say that the core of his coaching style is that there is no shortcut to success besides hard work.
Phillips says one example of Davenport's consistency in philosophy is expecting players to always sprint on and off the field.
"He's very by the book and he expects us to be the same way," Phillips said. "He makes sure that the players respect the game."
There's also the paternal aspect that Davenport brings to coaching. Even though the North Georgia coach has one daughter at home, he also regarded the 15 players on his team this year as his daughters, according to Phillips.
"He's like a father figure," Phillips said.
With the familial feel to the Lady Saints program and success winning, Davenport says that recruiting top high school talent is possible.
"Our biggest selling point is the kids we have on the team," Davenport said. "Winning helps a lot, but we have one of the best facilities at The Hill (Haines and Carolyn Hill Stadium) and our players treat it with respect."