West Xtra: Beaver enjoys a landmark season in softball

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Championship teams historically are not built overnight.

Butch Rousseau, the softball coach at Beaver Area High School, saw his team start coming together in early December.

Long before the first pitch of the season was thrown or the first "ping" of the bat, Rousseau could already see something special forming.

"The main thing about this team," Rousseau said of Beaver's historic 2014 season, "They bought into it from day one. From conditioning in early December, you could just see it in them. They knew we had a chance to be kind of special."

They were more than special.

The Bobcats won an outright Section 5-AA title, finished the regular-season unbeaten and captured the first WPIAL championship in the program's history.

There were many other "firsts" for the for the program as well -- first WPIAL finals, first PIAA playoff berth and first PIAA playoff win.

Beaver was the only WPIAL team in any classification to win a WPIAL title with an undefeated record. It finished the season at 17-1 after a 9-6 loss to Philipsburg-Osceola in the PIAA quarterfinals last Thursday.

"They worked so hard; I couldn't be prouder of them," Rousseau said. "They went through the season trying to improve every game."

For the two four-year seniors on the team, Katie Glass and Bella Valent, the WPIAL title was a reward for sticking through the tough times.

When Glass and Valent were freshmen, Beaver won two games. When they were sophomores the Bobcats improved to 7-10 but still didn't qualify for the playoffs.

The tide began to turn last year. The Bobcats finished 7-5 in the section to qualify for the playoffs and -- a few postseason upsets later -- they were in the WPIAL semifinals.

"They looked at what they accomplished last year," Rousseau said. "They talked about that in the offseason. There was a core of eight to 10 girls who came to every offseason practice. That was encouraging right there. They played their hearts out during the season and they wanted to prove themselves this year."

Right fielder Jamaly Jusino joined the team last year, giving Beaver three seniors in the outfield this year along with Glass in center field and Valent in left field.

"I am just happy with the way our team played together and how we worked as a team," Glass said. "We knew we could accomplish a lot more after what we did last year. We trained really hard and worked hard. I knew that being a senior it was my last year to do it. I have to thank the team for this -- we couldn't do it without everyone."

With a trio of senior starters and the fact that Beaver is moving up to Class AAA next season for the first time in program history, the time was right for the Bobcats to strive for their first WPIAL title.

"It meant a lot to those seniors," Rousseau said. "Some went through pretty lean years their first two years. It was a nice way to send them off."

Beaver Area captured its WPIAL title with a 2-0 win against Deer Lakes in a battle of the last two unbeaten teams in the WPIAL.

The game was played on a Thursday afternoon (May 29) at California University of Pennsylvania. After practices the following Saturday and Sunday the team held its banquet.

"The parents were ecstatic and I just couldn't thank them enough," Rousseau said. "I had so much great feedback from them and from players I coached in previous years.

"A lot of our alumnae, girls who had played for me in previous years came out to the games."

Beaver Area completed another program first with a 6-0 win against Everett the day after the banquet.

"We had practice Sunday [before the state playoff game] and they were a little flat and we were concerned," Rousseau said. "It is hard to get them to come back especially from what we went through, but once the game started, they got that intensity back and never missed a beat."

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