JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Lady Warhawks softball team believes its swagger was the key ingredient to becoming co-champions of the recent United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Military World tournament.
After placing ninth last year, "swag" led the Lady Warhawks to its decisive run through the competition in the tournament held at Panama City, Fla. Aug. 16-18.
"We went into the tournament with a lot of confidence because that's what we felt we were missing," said pitcher Krystal McGee, the tournament MVP. "Swag spread over the team and it became our motto for the season."
The Lady Warhawks began its tournament run with a whopping 19-4 victory over Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., followed by a 9-0 win over Just Us Softball from Fort Stewart, Ga.
They moved on to defeat Synergy from Suitland, Md., 5-2, and then downed VA Unknown from Petersburg, Va., 8-1, to advance to the finals against Fort Bragg, N.C.
However, the finals only lasted one inning before Mother Nature, in the form of heavy rains, reared its head in Panama City. The rest of the game was cancelled because of the wet conditions, leaving the Lady Warhawks and Fort Bragg as co-champions.
If not for the rain in the finals, Warhawks third baseman Corina Vieyra believes her team would have drenched Fort Bragg's championship aspirations.
"Regardless of the rain, we definitely would have dominated," Vieyra said. "We were pumped, and I love that my teammates constantly try to pick each other up with enthusiasm."
Even though Mother Nature ruined the Lady Warhawks' opportunity to exclusively reign over the competition, McGee commended her teammates' swag throughout the tournament.
"We just started believing in ourselves that we could win," McGee said. "When we started believing in our talent, we started believing in ourselves that we were the team to beat."
The belief in talent began with McGee's pitching skills, according to Vieyra.
"She's like our secret weapon," Vieyra said. "If you don't have the pitching, in my eyes you don't have the team."
While pitching may have been the catalyst to the Lady Warhawks' co-championship title, team leadership began with their coach, Salomon Vieyra. It was Vieyra, Corina's husband, who believed the team would win the tournament from the start.
McGee and Corina Vieyra huddled the team together moments before the championship game against Fort Bragg, telling their teammates they needed to win it for their coach after what they called some embarrassing performances this year.
"Coach V is the reason we are champions," McGee said. "This team would not be where it is without his dedication, commitment, and passion.
"There were times I didn't even know why he was there because we embarrassed him so much," she said. "For him to stick through it and push us really hard ... it was like he had the desire more than we did. His dedication is second to none."
By winning, Corina Vieyra said the Lady Warhawks were showing their gratitude for Coach V's dedication in pushing the team to reach its goals.
"We were just paying him back by winning Military World because we wanted to show him that we appreciate everything he has done for us," she said. "We wanted to show him, and show everybody, that this is what we've been working for all year - to be the best team."
Coach Vieyra, who was recently selected as a U.S. Air Force women's softball assistant coach, appreciated his team's dedication and effort in winning.
However, he would not take credit for their success.
"I committed and dedicated myself to each and every one of my ladies from day-one," Vieyra said. "They know that, and that's why they said they wanted to win it for me.
"But truth be told, they won it for themselves," he said. "I'm just the coach who tells them to work a little harder when they are exhausted. I ask them to dig deep, to get that last bit of energy that can help them make a play that saves or wins a game. It is extremely satisfying to know they believe in me like I believe in them."