The Windermere Wildfire 16U-Paulson team traveled to the Seattle area for USA Softball Nationals in June and — after a slow start — rattled off an impressive six-game winning streak.
It would have been easy for the girls of the Windermere Wildfire 16U — Paulson to have hung their heads.
The team had made the trip across the country — to Kent, Washington, just outside of Seattle — and, within the span of three games, things looked bleak.
After splitting a pair of games in pool play to decide seeding for the the double-elimination tournament at USA Softball 16U Fast Pitch Nationals in late June, the Wildfire dropped the first game of bracket play, dropping them into the losers’ bracket.
The trip was nearly a short stay, but then the team of local girls rallied. The Wildfire won six games in a row before losing again, ultimately finishing seventh at the national tournament.
After finishing in 14th two years earlier and ninth in 2017, it was an impressive step forward.
“It was very depressing at first, but I was very impressed — and have been impressed for the two or three years that I’ve been coaching these kids — at their willingness to fight and their resiliency,” head coach George Paulson said. “The level of competition (at Nationals) — it is the best of the best.”
By Paulson’s estimations, the Wildfire had one of the farthest trips, geographically, to even get to Nationals — not to mention that to be invited to the event, teams have to have won a qualifying event.
Not only did the team rattle off six consecutive wins, nearly battling all the way back from the losers’ bracket, but also it had the opportunity to right a loss — the Wildfire’s final win came against the Indiana Shockwave, the team that had defeated the local girls at the beginning of bracket play.
Despite that particular game being the fourth of the day for Windermere, the Wildfire were determined to demonstrate they are a hard team to beat twice.
“(The girls) were pumped but they also were pretty worn out; I think the idea of revenge gave them a little bit of extra energy,” Paulson said. “We jumped on the team and kept kind of piling on. … I think we broke their spirit in the middle of the game.”
The trip also included sightseeing opportunities for the families who came along, with the team visiting the Space Needle, Mount Rainier and the famous Pike Place Fish Market, among other stops.
Although the Wildfire came up short of the ultimate goal of winning a national championship, the team’s veteran coach made sure his girls understood the trip had been a success.
“It was a successful showing for Windermere Wildfire and something that everyone was proud of leaving there,” Paulson said. “You always hope to win, but we’d done a good job.”