Heading to the Division-II Softball College World Series, the North Georgia College & State University Lady Saints had one clear goal in mind: win a national championship.
Although the team didn’t meet their expectations and placed fifth overall, they aren’t letting that stop them from celebrating the amazing achievement of going undefeated during the regular season and finishing at 51-2, the highest winning percentage in the country.
Despite being the No. 1 team in the nation going into the series, and then losing two of their first three games, coach Mike Davenport doesn’t describe the result as a disappointment.
“Obviously you get that far and everybody knows its just one more step toward winning a national championship,” he said. “There are eight teams there who believe they can win it all, but only one can hoist that trophy on Monday.”
Davenport said that he was “extremely proud of the girls, on and off the field, this season.”
This marks the fourth time the Lady Saints have ventured to the College World Series, twice at the NAIA level and twice at the NCAA Division-II level, and Davenport believes that such trips are “program builders and program changers.”
“For a team to get there, every aspect of the team has to play to its full potential,” he said. “I’m very proud of the girls to get there, it’s a great accomplishment.
“The fact that its at the College World Series makes everything that much more special. Everything just seems a little better; from the food to the fields to the travel to the games themselves. It’s a great feeling to compete at the most elite level.”
For four Lady Saints, the experience will be their last as a collegiate athlete. Seniors Laura Voyles, Jessica Skeels, Leslee Smith and Courtney McGuire left the dirt for the last time after North Georgia’s loss to Metro State in their third game at the Series.
While Davenport doesn’t feel disappointed, McGuire confessed to feeling some of the emotion because, as she said, “we just didn’t play North Georgia softball this weekend.”
“I think, as a team, we wanted to do it for each other and for coach,” she said. “And we just came short this weekend.”
Despite whatever disappointment she may feel, McGuire doesn’t believe that the experience will mar her feelings about her years spent as a Lady Saint.
“I think the past four years have been probably the best four years of my life,” she said. “I wouldn’t choose to play anywhere else beside North Georgia and for coach Davenport.
“Obviously we’d rather go out with a national championship, but with a 52-1 record you can’t really complain.”
Davenport agrees with his senior, stating plainly that, with such a strong record, “there are no complaints from us. No looking back. Everyone feels good about the accomplishment.”
The coach hopes that the record this season and the result at the Series “will give the returning players even more motivation to prepare and head back.”
One thing that Davenport feels helped the team this season, and he hopes will continue to do so next season, is the support the Lady Saints received from both the local community in Dahlonega and the support of the faculty and staff at North Georgia.
“The kids fed off of the fans and the community support,” he said.
North Georgia will return 15 players next season, including Sarah Phillips, who was named the Ron Lenz National Pitcher of the Year after going 44-2 with a 1.00 ERA, and Lauren Dykes, who was named a third-team All American.