Five years ago when coach Casey Phillips arrived at West Mifflin Area, there was no offseason conditioning program for the softball team ... there were no expectations either.
Oh and by the way, there had not been a playoff appearance since the Clinton Administration.
Now in his fifth season at the helm of the Titans, there is an offseason conditioning program, there are expectations and now finally, there is a playoff berth, the first one since 1998.
West Mifflin was 14-4 before Wednesday's regular-season finale against Steel Valley. It went 9-3 in Class AAA Section 3 to share the section title with Elizabeth Forward (15-3, 9-3).
"It has been a great year," Phillips said. "This is something we have really worked toward. This is a manifestation of a lot of hard work and getting better every year.
"We wanted to turn a culture of losing into a culture of winning with the understanding that it was not going to happen overnight."
West Mifflin was 2-8 last season in the section but it was 6-3 outside of the section and it did welcome back eight starters. The only position needing to be replaced was right field.
Early on it was evident things would be different this season. West Mifflin won its first five games, scoring nine or more runs in each game, including a pair of 12-2 wins against Belle Vernon Area and South Park, two perennial playoff contenders from within the section.
The Titans also showed they can win by playing "small ball" in scoring a 3-1 win at Yough, a 2-1 win against Southmoreland and a 4-0 win at Thomas Jefferson in the span of one week.
Phillips was eager to take on the challenge at West Mifflin when he came from Baldwin five years ago. He had previously been an assistant at Baldwin for seven years and was around for a WPIAL Class AAAA championship run.
"I was used to being around a certain environment," Phillips said. "I tried to instill a lot of the things in terms of preparation that we had done at Baldwin."
When his current senior class arrived as freshmen four years ago, most of the ninth graders were thrust into starting positions.
"There were no expectations, which for young kids can be a blessing and a curse," Phillips said. "But we have improved and now we are starting to see the fruits of their labor."
West Mifflin has used two pitchers this season, juniors Paige Flore and Crystal Cook.
"We have gone with who has the hot hand," Phillips said. "They are similar pitchers. They are both juniors and neither are straight strikeout pitchers.
"They are pitchers who have learned how to manufacture groundball outs and let their defense help them out."
Cook starts at first base when she is not pitching. Cook has four wins and 21 strikeouts while Floire has nine wins and 69 strikeouts. Both can also help their own cause at the plate.
Floire bats .327 while Cook bats .319.
Senior shortstop Marla Small is the top hitter in the lineup. She is batting .450 with three home runs, seven doubles and 27 RBIs.
"She is a tough, tough out," Phillips said. "I am willing to say she is the best player in our section and our section is arguably one of the best in the WPIAL."
Senior second baseman Kaylyn Andress is batting .433 from the second spot in the lineup.
"I have to juggle the lineup sometimes, everybody is hitting," Phillips said. "It is a good problem to have."
Sophomore infielder Lauren Ackerman is batting .361 with 15 RBIs. Senior third baseman Syd Zalice is batting .302 with 16 RBIs, one home run and five doubles. Senior center fielder Amanda Leschak is batting .306.