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Run to sectional final has Atlantic City softball players excited about future of program

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By GIUSEPPE UNGARO Managing Editor The Atlantic City High School softball players can get used to all this winning. The program has never been a perennial power. In fact, the Vikings’ appearance in this season’s sectional finals was their first. However, the goal is for the appearance to be the first of many. It was a season, and a playoff run, to remember. It included a 10-game winning streak, timely hits, including home runs, dominating pitching, and steady if not spectacular defense. Atlantic City snuck into the playoffs as the No. 16 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament, then scored three upsets to earn a berth in the sectional championship. The return of senior starting pitcher Maddie Taggart from injury sparked the Vikings to a 10-game winning streak that helped them earn a berth in the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs this past season. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) The return of senior starting pitcher Maddie Taggart from injury sparked the Vikings to a 10-game winning streak that helped them earn a berth in the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs this past season. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) Although some of the Vikings are still soaking in the new experience of winning and being sectional runners up, the memories will last long after the players eventually move the tassel of their graduation caps from one side to the other. It was one final moment for the recently graduated seniors. For the rest of the program, 2014 will either be a season to remember, one that all future teams will aspire to, or it will be the start of something bigger. “I just think everyone had so much fun and I think now we don’t want to stop,” said Sierra Jordan, who will be a senior in the fall. “Everybody just wants to keep going. It was really a lot of fun. I’m not going to lie. It was the best year.” “I think the fact that we went so far this year will inspire people to step up and fill in the place for the people that (graduated),” said catcher Olivia Dellston, who also will be a senior next season. “We did so well we want to keep the momentum going.” There is no telling at the moment whether this past season was the exception or the beginning of a new rule. However, the season has already had an impact. Although disappointed the season ended with a sectional finals loss to powerhouse Washington Township, the Vikings said they are still proud of what they accomplished and are excited to build on it. “I’ve heard people talking about improving on the showing,” Dellston said. “I heard people on jayvee saying they want to improve so they can be on varsity. We don’t want to go back to what we were before.” Shortstop Alexis Barrett anchored a solid infield that helped Atlantic City reach the sectional championship game despite being a No. 16 seed. Shortstop Alexis Barrett anchored a solid infield that helped Atlantic City reach the sectional championship game despite being a No. 16 seed. What the Vikings were before was an up-and-coming team, improving every season in its last five. However, five years ago they were winless. One of the biggest reasons Atlantic City turned its fortunes around was the return of Maggie Taggart. The Vikings’ ace returned from injury and helped the team get on a roll. Taggart has graduated, but Atlantic City will still need pitching. The one benefit of Taggart missing time is that Megan Master, a freshmen, saw time inside the circle. That experience could be huge in the coming years. The Vikings expect to return seven girls who saw some time at the varsity level. The Vikings said they want to be contenders, not only in the Cape-Atlantic League, but beyond. For that to happen there can’t be a letdown. “You have to be ready to put in the work,” Vikings coach Jason Grimes said. “You can’t sit back on your accomplishment. It’s something you have to work hard for. To get to the point we want to get to, you have to work hard.” That means playing travel ball or going to off-season clinics and lessons. That’s what makes perennial powers. It sounds like the Vikings are ready to do just that. “I think if you take a break you lose something,” Jordan said. “If you take a break and then start playing again, you have to build up everything. You have to stay at it.” The soon-to-be seniors believe the Vikings are here to stay. This past season should be a reason for confidence and optimism. “The starters coming back and everyone that will be back have the ability,” Dellston said. “I definitely think we can,” Jordan said. “We earned so much this season.” Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: gungaro@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu

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