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Lyme softball ready for change

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CHAUMONT — When thinking of successful high school sports programs in the area, Lyme softball isn’t one that comes to mind.

It might even be last on your list.

But first-year coach Tony Gullo and his 2013 squad are committed to slowly changing that perception.

Gullo, who coached at Immaculate Heart Central from 2004-11, took over the program last summer and made his presence felt immediately by organizing offseason workouts. Fourth-year senior Mikayla Warren said that was a first in her tenure.

“At first I think we were kind of nervous because we’re like ‘Oh, we’ve never played softball outside of softball season before,’” said Warren, who has played for a different coach in each of her four varsity seasons.

“But once we got going, we thought that we could really change softball for Lyme.”

The program has already seen results from that culture change. The Indians opened the season with a 9-1 victory over Copenhagen — its first win since 2007.

“We were singing and dancing and taking pictures,” Warren said. “It was huge. It was a great start for us with a new team, a young team this year, to get that under our belts, to get that feeling of what an actual win feels like.”

That feeling of victory is something Warren, and all of her teammates, had never enjoyed before this year’s 2-5 start.

Last year all but two of the Indians’ losses were by double-digit runs. As the losses piled up through the years, Warren said it was tough to identify a particular low point.

“The past four years overall have been a low point, really,” Warren said. “It’s hard going from losing game after game after game.”

“And it’s pretty hard because you have to get used to a new coach every year and them getting used to you, it takes a while to build that up,” she added.

But with Gullo stepping in, the Indians saw a chance to start new.

“We kind of let the past be the past and we decided this is a new year, a new team, a new coach. We’re going to build from the beginning,” Warren said.

One of Gullo’s objectives entering the season was making sure the team understood that they didn’t need to carry the weight of a six-year losing streak.

“We don’t take accountability or responsibility for any other team,” Gullo said. “The coaches worked hard, the girls worked hard and whatever their season produced, they’re accountable for that. We’re 0-0 (to start the season), we don’t have a losing streak. Now here at the school, that’s our history, but that’s not this team’s history. This is the first year this team has ever been together and we had never lost a game.”

“That’s not just something the coach was trying to sell them, that’s the deal. That’s reality,” Gullo added. “And they came out and really played strong the first game, so they understood that.”

And while Lyme will still take its lumps this year, like Tuesday’s 15-1 loss to perennial power Sandy Creek, the process of building a program with consistency and stability is under way.

“I think this is really important to get this going now, and I don’t mind helping at all,” said Warren, who wants to see the program thriving while her sister and teammate, 8th-grader Morgan Warren, is still playing for Lyme.

Warren is one of just two seniors and three upperclassmen for the Indians. The team starts six freshmen and an eighth-grader.

That group is led by freshman pitcher Taylor Brown, whom Gullo referred to as the hardest worker in the program.

“We got a nice opportunity here. We got a nice core group,” Gullo said. “Let’s put the time in, let’s work hard and season by season, year by year, we can build into a strong team that can have success. But at the same time, you want to keep it in the moment and understand that, though that can be the future of the program, there’s a right here and a right now, and we need to keep our focus so we can have success this season.”

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