Sunshine is back at the top of Victorian women’s softball.
Returning to open A-grade competition for the first time in more than a decade, Sunshine has won a state title at the first try.
Sunshine president Esther Lightowler said it was a significant achievement for the association’s top women’s team to emerge as a champion.
“To get into A grade and win it was just fabulous because we haven’t been in it for probably over 10 years,” she said. “It was just wonderful.”
The odds were stacked against Sunshine heading into the competition.
On the eve of the tournament, Sunshine coach Jamie Hurinui and assistant Jodie Lightowler had to patch up their line-up due to a number of injuries.
“The night before players were pulling out with injuries,” Esther Lightowler said. “We thought we were just going to make up the numbers.”
When one player goes down, another can step up – that was the case for Sunshine, which delved deep into its playing stocks, calling up a number of teenagers.
“We had some of the younger kids from the under-17s and under-19s playing in the open side,” Lightowler said. “They did an enormous job.”
For Sunshine, avoiding pre-tournament favourites Waverley in the final was a blessing.
Sunshine took care of business in the decider 7-4 over Dandenong, which had knocked Waverley out in the previous game.
“Dandenong beat Waverley, which was good, because Waverley is the up-and-coming team,” Lightowler said. “Waverley is the team to beat in nearly every section.”
The future looks bright for Sunshine women’s section, as it also won the girls’ under-17 title.
“There’s good talent coming through,” Lightowler said. “A couple of years ago we were struggling, but now we’ve got that many juniors down there, it’s just building wonderfully.”
Sunshine wants to build into a stronger and more fierce outfit across the board.
The association will undertake an aggressive recruiting push in the lead-up to next summer.
“We’ll have a little rest now and start building in September with a couple of come-and-try days for the start of the season,” Lightowler said. “Hopefully we can pick up some new players and keep the players we’ve got.”