It's 4 p.m. and Fairfax varsity softball head coach Corey Stokes is running a few minutes late. It's a moment when some teams might fall into chaos, waiting for their coach to give them direction, but Senior Ashley Rollins takes charge.
She leads the Lady Rebels in some stretches and laps around the field. She knows her team can't afford to waste valuable practice time. This season they've moved to the big leagues — the Liberty District.
"It's going to be a challenge this year," Rollins said. "We've had a lot of success for softball in the past year and our biggest struggle will be learning the girls and teams we'll face."
While some consider the Liberty District a less competitive district, that’s not the case for softball. According to Stokes, it’s actually a step up. The Lady Rebels now must face Langley and McLean, two of the area's top softball teams, in the regular season.
"We've played a few out-of-district games against [the Liberty District]," Stokes said. "They always seem to have good teams."
While most Fairfax High School sports teams have benefitted from the move from the Concorde District to the Liberty District, the softball team is expecting a tougher schedule.
"I kind of wish we were still in the Concorde," senior Kelly Spong joked. "I think we're ready [for the Liberty District] though."
The Lady Rebels hope to build on the momentum from a 14-8 record in the 2009 season in which they reached the Concorde District finals, losing 5-1 to Chantilly. The season ended with a first-round loss to McLean in the Northern Region tournament.
Graduation took its toll and now younger girls from the junior varsity team and depth players from 2009 are playing new roles.
"We have a brand new infield and only some returners," Rollins said. "But we all have open minds and we work well together. Our games blend together."
Senior Lizzie Basalyga said the addition of some new faces is “kind of a restart of our team."
"I'm looking forward to seeing what all of the new players can bring to our team."
Stokes said getting her younger players acclimated to varsity-level play will take time, but as she saw from Rollins' impromptu practice session, the team is willing to put in the work to be successful.
"It's a young group of girls," Stokes said. "But we have a lot of leadership on this team. They have a great attitude and they're a fun team. That's what matters."