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Obstacles not seen as problem for Valley stars

August 02, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

CALEXICO — Entering the 2001 16-and-under Pacific Southwest Babe Ruth softball regional tournament, which begins at Legion Field in Calexico at 7 tonight, the Imperial Valley all-star team seems an underdog.

The Valley squad has only practiced together for a little more than a week and does not know what it will face in the tournament as it will take on teams from Concord, Avondale and Yuma from Arizona and Pearl City, Hawaii.

What the team does have is home-field advantage, a larger fan base than other teams and camaraderie, all of which its players think could make a difference.

"Even though we've practiced together for like a week, we all still know each other really well," said 17-year-old Anica Roche, who will play first base and outfield. "Last year we didn't play as a team, but this year the way we've been practicing has been more like a team. We all get along and are having fun out there. And I think that will help us."

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While the team hasn't played together long, most of the players have competed against each other in high school.

When the team started practicing July 23, players said the Valley squad looked like anything but a team.

"It was pretty bad the first few practices. We were making a lot of mistakes and weren't looking too good," said 17-year-old Nicky Carrion. "But as we kept practicing, things got more intense and we started getting better and were improving. Then we were looking more like a team. I think that if we can come together and play as a team we have a really good chance and we should take it."

(Carrion and Roche both qualify to play in the tournament as 16-year-olds.)

It is the continued improvement during practices that Carrion thinks will provide momentum to carry into the tournament.

While the team has gradually improved, coach Alex Peralta still thinks his squad has its work cut out for it. He said lack of practice may play a role in the team's performance, along with the fact that his squad has never played any teams in the tournament.

"It's difficult because you really don't know what to expect. So during practice I've tried to get these girls prepared for every situation, so they'll be ready for anything during the games," said Peralta. "But we're going to go in, play hard and just take one game at a time. Our goal is to go all the way and us doing that will be up to how our girls perform."

Even with a few obstacles, the players are confident about their chances.

Shortstop Amber Flores and catcher Nicole Cordova played together on the Mexican Junior Olympic softball team last summer and know about big-time pressure situations. Both agreed that this Valley team is good enough to take the championship.

"I really do think that we're good enough to get it done. It's just a matter of us trying hard and playing our best. What really makes this team work is that we all try to help each other out. We work together and play as a team," said the 14-year-old Cordova.

Added 12-year-old Flores, the youngest player on the team, "I think we have a really good chance in this tournament. We have some really good players with a lot of experience. Even though we haven't practiced together very long, I don't really think that'll affect us. We're going to put that behind us and come together and just play as a team. And hopefully we'll do well."

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