The Guilderland softball team proved that it belonged in the Section II, Class AA playoffs.
After petitioning the softball committee to get a playoff berth, the 12th-seeded Lady Dutch (16-10) responded with a 5-2 opening round victory over No. 5 Bethlehem last Wednesday.
No one saw that coming, said Guilderland coach Jen Picara. "I knew we had a great chance, and it was a big win for our program."
Guilderland was subsequently knocked out by No. 4 Queensbury 10-5 in Friday's quarterfinals, but the fact that the Lady Dutch got that far in the first place after finishing with a 6-8 Suburban Council record impressed Picara.
"The girls came together, and (the season) ended well for us,: said Picara. "I think half of it is getting the girls to believe that they can win."
That hasn't been easy for Picara. Since coming to Guilderland several years ago after a stint as Shaker's assistant coach, Picara's Lady Dutch have struggled to reach the .500 league mark it needs to automatically qualify for Sectionals.
This year's task was made more daunting by the fact that Picara only had three seniors to work with. The rest of the team was made up of underclassmen, including two eighth graders.
"The huge thing was scheduling the non-league games early in the season and giving the kids some confidence," said Picara.
The tactic worked, as Guilderland posted a 15-9 overall record with young players often leading the team to victories. And Picara is hopeful that trend will continue next year.
"They should keep it going. Every year brings new challenges," she said.""