Victorious Valor softball creates family from team
Dirt, eye black and bruises usually aren’t in style for homecoming season, but for the 13 girls on Valor Christian High School’s varsity softball team, there wasn’t much of a choice.
In between two days of tenacious softball play that ended with a second 4A championship trophy, the girls took time to clean up and head to the homecoming dance at their school in Highlands Ranch.
“Getting to celebrate at homecoming after winning the first two games was a great way to reconnect with my team,” said Alexandra Kinder, the team’s third baseman and only senior. “I think we all knew from the beginning we would come out strong.”
That belief in — and connection to — each other fueled their bond, the girls say, helping make the consecutive title a reality.
“We see each other every day — when we do devotions, when we eat lunch and even when we do things like going to football games,” said Kinder, the team captain. “We really are a family, and whether we’re winning or losing, we’re always there for each other.”
Coach Dave Atencio agreed, but noted talent played a large role, too.
“I think the team’s biggest strength this year was a combination of the team’s chemistry and our offensive line up,” Atencio said. “We knew we had a powerful (team). There wasn’t just any individual person that could hit the ball — we had one through nine.”
And no single player was placed above another.
“Coach Atencio has impacted us all so much,” Kinder said. “He’s showed all of us the importance of work ethic and what it takes to win. We all work hard and we’re all equal on the field.”
Junior Lauren Foster echoed Kinder and added that faith also plays a significant unifying role.
“We all share a special connection because of how we put God first in our lives and represent Christ,” Foster said about her team.
For Kinder, who has played on the varsity team since freshman year, last weekend’s victory was the perfect way to wrap up her high school softball career — one that included personal physical challenges as well.
She’s played through various sports-related injuries over the years. Six months ago, she was diagnosed with Raynaud’s Disease, which causes areas of the body, including fingers and toes, to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress due to limited blood circulation.
“I didn’t really worry because it isn’t curable, but it can’t kill you,” Kinder said. “I’m now seeing that it is an everyday struggle.”
While Kinder’s friends wear sandals and dresses, she’s forced to wear jeans and boots to stay warm. And although it hasn’t affected her play on the field much, there are moments when the disease interferes.
“There’s times when I don’t know when to release a ball if I’m throwing to first,” Kinder said. “I can’t feel my hands and I’ll end up chucking the ball over the first baseman’s head or drilling it into the ground.”
But all worked out well for Kinder and the team, now celebrating a year to be remembered.
“Having all of the support we received from friends and family was amazing all season long,” Kinder said. “The mean 13 decided to make history this year once again.”