When Tiffani Airmet looks across the softball field today, she'll see a team she cheers for —with one exception.
"I like to see Jordan do well," the first-year coach at Alta said. "The only team I want to see do better is us."
Airmet took over the Hawks' head coaching job last summer when longtime softball coach Vaughn Alvey took a job with BYU. Alvey is legendary in the softball community and Alta High named its softball field after him, even before he decided to leave. Airmet knows she has her work cut out for her, as everyone expects her to keep winning, but following Alvey has a lot of advantages.
"I feel the pressure," she said. "I know everyone is looking at us, expecting us to be successful . . . but Vaughn left a lot of really disciplined, respectful and hard-working players. They've been very accepting and helpful."
Airmet was the assistant at Jordan before moving to Alta, but she's no stranger to head coaching. In fact, she and Jordan coach Steve Hendricks have faced each other as opponents in summer leagues. When asked how he felt about the meeting, Hendricks just smiled.
The two teams play Tuesday at Jordan High in their first region contest. Both teams were voted in the top five in a pre-season poll of coaches. Jordan was voted No. 1, despite losing its starting pitcher to graduation. The Beetdiggers got a boost in that area when Belinda and Emily Cardenas moved from Hillcrest to Jordan. Belinda Cardenas is a junior pitcher and beat Taylorsville last Thursday. Hendricks said he'll likely pitch her against Alta, a team that returned three strong pitchers, including all-state pitcher Corie Jensen.
Hendricks said he's optimistic about defending his state title as "I have all of my offense back — and then some."
Alta was voted the third best team in pre-season polls, while Viewmont was voted second by coaches. The Vikings are viewed as strong offensively and defensively and boast one of the best pitchers in Brittney Thompson.
Taylorsville was voted fourth and Bingham voted fifth. Both squads lost pitchers to graduation, but Diana Phillips and Bree Shober have done well for the Warriors, while Amber Sackett pitched a no-hitter last week for the Miners.
Any one of these teams, and a few of those not ranked by coaches in the pre-season, could take the state title this year. In fact, as one coach put it, it may come down to timing.
"This year it's a crap-shoot," said Taylorsville's Rich Kaelin. "There's no clear leader . . . There is no dominating pitcher. It's going to come down to who is the most confident, who is hitting the ball the best in May, and who has the best defense."