TEGA CAY — The Tega Cay Rockets, a 16U fast-pitch softball team, won the USSSA South Carolina State Championship in Lexington and will advance to the USSSA World Series at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., July 19-26.
But first, they need to raise enough money to pay for the trip.
The team consists of 13 players from Tega Cay, Fort Mill, Chester and the surrounding areas. When coaches Michael Johnson and Bret Wolf started the team in 2009, they never expected to win a state title, they said. Their goals were about helping the girls improve to play at a higher level.
“It wasn’t something that we had set out to do when we first started playing these girls four or five years ago,” Johnson said. “We were just trying to get them in shape to play for the local high school teams. They’ve really taken it upon themselves to take advantage of the opportunities.”
The Tega Cay Rockets is comprised of girls in middle and high school and most of them are already playing at the high school level. A majority of the girls played with or against each other in the Tega Cay recreation league for years before Johnson and Wolf decided to transition to the travel league.
Despite coming from different teams, coach Santos Serrano said the girls have formed close friendships and worked especially well together this season.
“I can’t believe how everybody jelled together this year,” Serrano said. “It’s like one big happy family here. Everybody cheers everybody on and motivates everybody.”
Serrano’s daughter, Sieanna, said the team is like “a big group of sisters.” Bre’zhay Chambers of Chester said she has formed strong friendships with her teammates despite coming from a different city.
For Chambers, making it to the USSSA World Series is a testament to the dedication she and her teammates have put into the season.
“It feels really good because we put a lot of hard work into it and it just paid off,” Chamber said.
Serrano’s neighbor, Liz Seeger, has made it her mission to help the team raise enough money for the trip, despite only knowing one girl on the team. Seeger called businesses around Tega Cay to solicit sponsors.
Coach John Majcina has also worked to raise money for the girls through an online fundraiser. The Rockets spent time in the community at the Tega Cay Fourth of July parade to raise money as well.
Traveling to Orlando is an exciting opportunity for the girls because they will get a chance to play in a different environment and spend time together as a team, Kennedy Wolf said.
“I’m just excited about playing on the huge field,” Wolf said. “I think it’s going to be fun to just go with the team and stay (in Florida). It’s always really fun being together.”
Coach Serrano said he hopes the team will do well in the tournament, but that the outcome isn’t what is truly important to the girls.
“Hopefully they take the whole thing,” Serrano said. “If not, at least they’ll have a good experience, a good time and it’ll be something they always remember.”