FORT MILL — The Lady Blues, a U10 softball team featuring two girls from Fort Mill, won the North Carolina ASA “A” bracket North Carolina State Championship in June and will advance to the national championship starting July 28 in Johnson City, Tenn.
Janelle Ilacqua and Aleah Roy, who attend Fort Mill and Orchard Park elementary schools respectively, are excited to be part of a team that will represent North Carolina in a national tournament. Their team is part of a softball organization based in Charlotte, with teams of varying age groups composed of players from both North and South Carolina.
Ilacqua and Roy said their team has worked hard to make it to the national tournament. The team practices for two hours, three nights a week, and each girl also practices independently. Ilacqua said she and her teammates put in around 15 hours of practice each week.
Although the team dedicates a lot of its time and effort to softball, Ilacqua and Roy said they haven’t let it affect their schoolwork while classes are in session.
“It takes us about an hour to get to practice so we always have to do our homework while we’re driving up there,” Ilacqua said. “Usually we always have good grades, because school should come first.”
Roy’s mother, Michelle, said being on the team has even helped her daughter improve her grades.
“She has the best grades when she’s playing,” Michelle Roy said. “It teaches them, at a young age, time management because they need to be doing their homework in the car as we’re driving.”
Aside from teaching the girls important life skills, playing for the Lady Blues has given them a chance to form friendships with girls from different areas who help improve their skills on the field.
“It’s not often that you find a group of girls where everyone gets along and everybody wants to help each other get better,” Janelle’s mother, Heather Ilacqua, said.
Janelle Ilacqua said the bond between she and her teammates goes far beyond playing together, despite the long distances they live from each other.
“Even though they’re really far away we still go to each other’s houses and hang out,” Ilacqua said.
Heather Ilacqua said the team’s coaches: Chris Goodrum, Joel Jenkins and Stewart Polksky, have put effort into building a hard working team that maintains good sportsmanship. Goodrum even built a field on his property in Mooresville, N.C., where the team practices. Making it to the national championship is a testament to the coaching, Heather Ilacqua said.
Although the girls will be competing, they said they are just excited to get a chance to play the game they love and face teams from across the country they’ve never played before.
To cover the cost of entering the tournament and their travel expenses, the girls have been raising money through car washes and yard sales. They are also looking for business sponsors and donations. All donations given to the Lady Blues are tax deductible.