After more than a few hard-earned wins, the Lacombe Matrix U16B team is heading to softball provincials next month.
The team of 11 girls will be facing off against five of the best U16B softball teams in the province including the Red Deer Rage and Innisfail Indians.
Fresh off their win last weekend at the Girls Prairie League Softball (GPLS) Championship in Red Deer, The Matrix made it into the qualifying round to complete on the provincial level.
The girls have now wrapped up their regular season and recently held a practice on Tuesday to refine their skills before attending provincials.
Victoria Derwantz and Brooke McBurney, 16, and both team captains, took some time out of their practice to share about their successful season and their love of softball.
“In our second GPLS tournament (the St. Albert Invitational) we won gold against a Saskatchewan team,” said Derwantz.
“They were the toughest competition we have faced yet,” said McBurney of the Unity Saskatchewan team. “But we won, in triple overtime.”
As the two second-year players on the team, McBurney and Derwantz both play in the U19 division, something they also did last year. There is some overlap between the Matrix teams and divisions, with one other U16B player splitting her time with a Bentley team as well.
The best part of playing softball over the past eight years for the pair, which is evident by the smiles on their faces, is playing as part of a team.
“Working together is a big part of it,” said Derwantz.
“And we’ve grown up with these girls so we are really connected,” agreed McBurney.
Head Coach Derek Rankin said the team is a great group of girls who have been working hard all throughout the season.
“At the GPLS Championships, we took silver after losing to Red Deer in the final,” he said. “We are on the way to provincials and we will see many of the teams that we have seen all year long there.”
In the regular season the Matrix held a record of 10-3 in the GPLS U16B division.
The team is considered quite young in the division, but that hasn’t stopped them from racking up wins or medals.
“It’s very much so,” said Rankin. “We have three underage players who should be playing at a level below, six first-year girls and only two second-year players. We are young by standards for sure.”
Rankin explained that in Zone 4, there are only two B teams in the area, so the Matrix U16B team often plays against U18 teams for some competition.
Although the GPLS regular season has concluded, the Matrix have a few upcoming exhibition games over the next few weeks. “We gave a couple games lined up against A teams from the city so, it’s again to see just a little bit better competition and to challenge the girls a little bit,” said Rankin.
Rankin has been coaching the same group of girls as they have moved up in divisions over the past five or so years.
“I’ve gotten to know many of them well as many of them are good friends with my daughter Lauren (who is also on the team),” he said. “They really are an easy group to coach.”
The team is comprised of 11 players including Ashlyn Webb, Brooke McBurney, Callie Braun, Camryn Fodor, Heather Schellenberg, Katelyn Hellofs, Keyana Kamps, Lauren Derksen, Lauren Rankin, Meg Crawford, Victoria Derwantz, under the watchful eye of Head Coach Derek Rankin and Assistant Coach Debbie Derwantz.
This is not the first time The Matrix have attended softball provincials. Last year, as the Matrix U14, they hosted the provincial competition in July here in Lacombe, welcoming eight teams from around the province to their home diamond, #3. They earned a silver medal.
In the GPLS Championship last year, they also won a silver medal. As a U12 team, they were provincial champs.
The Lacombe Minor Softball league, called the Lacombe Matrix, includes divisions from U8 up to U18, with both competitive and community teams.
The club recently hosted their home tournament in Lacombe from June 12th to 14th.
The Matrix U10C team won gold, the Matrix U12 competitive team took bronze and the Matrix U14 team took fourth place.
The Matrix U16B team will be attending provincials in Strathmore from July 10th to 12th.