A noticeable drop-off in social media activity by players for the North DeSoto and Benton softball teams over the last few days wasn’t surprising pending their “Showdown of the Sisterhood” in Sulphur.
Coaches for both teams recently put their players on notice that sounding off, talking smack or retorting to challenges for the world to see would not be acceptable. That’s hard for coaches to monitor, especially for one as Twitter-free as North DeSoto’s Lori McFerren. But she and Benton’s Michelle Owens were doing what they could to make the biggest game of the season for either squad appear to be just another game.
“My girls know I don’t like social media and I haven’t changed my philosophy at all,” McFerren said. “I don’t do Facebook and I only opened a Twitter account to follow you and LSU softball. We have had some episodes with some stupid things being posted.
“After our game with Neville, one of their players posted that we ‘were in for a rude awakening against Teurlings Catholic.’ I told the girls, ‘do not respond.'”
Owens said she went a step further, telling her team to stay off social media in the days leading up to Friday’s 6 p.m. meeting with the Lady Griffins.
“I told them not to go tit-for-tat. It just makes for drama,” Owens said. “A lot of social media stuff is negative and it can come back to bite you. We are trying to keep it positive.”
Not only are the Lady Griffins and Lady Tigers district rivals, located about 30 minutes apart, some of the players are friends. That can be good and bad. And it doesn’t help that in the only meeting between the clubs in district play, North DeSoto dominated 10-2.
Lady Griffins first baseman Maddie Burchell and Benton pitcher Gabby Kespelher formerly held sleepovers when they played on the same travel ball team as 12 year olds.
“But when I step on the field, there are no friends. It’s just softball,” Burchell said. “When we played them the first time, we were out for blood, and we were on our ‘A’ game.”
Burchell, a heavy Twitter user, knows things aren’t likely to be as easy this time around.
“I feel like some of my teammates will be relaxed about the game because we beat them pretty good — but they weren’t on at all,” she said.
Benton first baseman Savannah Collo, also a heavy Twitter user, is friends with Burchell.
“We’re just both competitive teams with the same goal,” Collo said in a text. “Gotta remember to have fun, considering it being the first time either of us have been to state.”
All games in Sulphur’s Frasch Park are intense affairs with packed stands of jacked up fans trying to will their teams to victories.
Sometimes the emotions can get out of hand. Both coaches are hoping their players stay focused on the game and keep the distractions, social media or otherwise, to a minimum.
And neither team is taking the game lightly, according to Burchell and Kespelher, who say the game is more than just a state playoff game.
“There’ll be more in the line,” Burchell said. “This game will be more than just about who will move on with a chance to win state. It’s about who should really have won district.”
And Kespelher is expecting a different result.
“Yes, I’m fired up even now. We’re gonna be coming in hard,” she said. “The fact that we know who they are and we know how they play, I think it’ll be a different turnout in the game.”
Meanwhile, the coaches see things differently and are trying to control emotions.
“Just trying to keep the girls grounded — play their best — but at the same time, enjoy the moment, because no one is promised tomorrow,” McFerren said.
The Lady Tigers were eating dinner at Steamboat Bills on Thursday night in Sulphur, practicing on Friday morning, then heading to the field No. 16 for the “Sisterhood” matchup about 3 p.m.
“I’m sure whichever team wins, they will represent our district well,” Owens said.