We were so close.
For three seasons, Arbor View’s softball team said and heard those four words so often, the players might have mistaken them for the school motto.
Time after time, the Aggies came up just short of beating a team they had never beaten or qualifying for playoffs they’d only watched and read about.
Led by a six-member senior class and a solid pitching trio, the Aggies are headed to the Sunset Region playoffs. Arbor View (16-14) opens play Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Majestic Park against Southwest League champion Durango (24-7).
“It’s overwhelming and incredible. I wouldn’t trade the feeling that I have now for anything,” said senior catcher/infielder Chelsea Venable. “Everybody has stepped up when we needed them to.”
The Aggies finally climbed the mountain this season, helped by wins over Shadow Ridge, Centennial and Palo Verde in Northwest League play. The Aggies finished 8-6 and in fourth place in the league.
“In the past, literally after every game, in the huddle it was like, ‘We were so close,’ ” Arbor View coach Hilary Eisen said. “They finally saw the light. We beat teams we haven’t beaten in the past. They showed themselves they could do it.”
This year’s team is almost identical personnel-wise to the team that was so close last year, going 6-8 in league play. But it’s a different makeup in terms of chemistry.
“We had some drama on our team last year, but they’re completely different people this year,” Eisen said. “Their personalities are different. Their desire is deeper. They just want it a whole lot more.”
It doesn’t hurt that the team received a shot in the arm from pitchers Amanda Jones, Berlin Panduro and Marlene Panduro. Arbor
View has allowed three or fewer runs in 19 of its 30 games this season, including the final five of the regular season.
“They’ve been amazing,” Venable said. “It’s good to have three pitchers that no matter the situation, we can always go to any of them.”
The Aggies have also hit well. Venable carries a .435 average and 27 RBIs into region play. Sophomore infielder Nichole Diaz is right behind at .424.
“We just have to keep working as a team, being a family on the field,” said senior infielder Tiffanee Anderson, third on the team in batting average and second in RBIs. “We all have to step up as one.”
In Tuesday’s other first-round matchups in the Sunset Region: Clark (18-11) meets Shadow Ridge (22-10) at 4 p.m.; Cimarron-Memorial (21-9) faces Bonanza (28-6) at 6 p.m.; and Desert Oasis (13-20) takes on Centennial (22-7) at 6 p.m.
In Sunrise Region first-round games Tuesday at Majestic Park: Silverado (14-12) battles Valley (15-7) at 4 p.m.; Rancho (8-18) meets Green Valley (24-6) at 4 p.m.; Liberty (22-10) takes on Las Vegas (14-8) at 6 p.m.; and Eldorado (10-10) faces Foothill (24-11) at 6 p.m.
Both regional title games are scheduled for Friday.