Things don't look too much different for the La Cañada High softball team as it begins its bid to repeat as the CIF Southern Section Division V champions today.
A look at the tournament bracket shows a rematch for the division crown could be in the cards, as the Spartans own the No. 1 seed again and Beaumont, which La Cañada defeated, 1-0, for the title last year, is the second seed after it won the Mountain Pass League with a 22-4, 14-1 in league record.
"[A rematch] has entered my mind once or twice, but at this point you take it one game at a time," La Cañada senior catcher Catherine Horner said. "You can't look ahead, you just got to get there first."
Of course, La Cañada Coach KC Mathews and the rest of his coaching staff will be there to ensure the Spartans don't get ahead of themselves.
"Top seeds go out the window when the first game starts," Mathews said. "In the playoffs you're one and done, so you need to be your best every week because everybody is in the playoffs for a reason."
The first test of the playoffs for the Spartans is today at 3:15 p.m. when they host Lompoc High, which defeated Gladstone, 21-1, in Tuesday's Division V wild-card game.
"In the past, the first two [playoff] games haven't been the hardest, we just want to jump on these teams early," said Spartans shortstop Annie Monroe.
Once again this season, La Cañada is leaning heavily on the shoulders of two seniors.
This time around it's Horner and standout pitcher Lauren Cox after Lauren O'Leary and Anna Edwards were key to La Cañada's CIF title last season, as Edwards hit the solo homer and O'Leary earned the shutout win in the circle over Beaumont.
Horner has been the focal point of La Cañada's offense all year with a .450 batting average (36 for 80), .516 on-base and .800 slugging percentages with 28 runs batted in, 24 runs scored, 12 doubles, four home runs and two triples, which are all team-highs along with seven stolen bases.
"Winning it last year definitely put a weight on our shoulders for this year, but I think it motivates us because we want to repeat and do it again," said Horner, who's also crucial defensively with a perfect fielding percentage in 278 chances and has caught seven of the 14 runners who've attempted to steal on her. "I definitely think it's possible with Lauren Cox in the circle and the hitting lineup that we have."
Cox will look to continue a stellar regular season in which she's recorded five no-hitters, 15 shutouts, maintained a 0.63 earned-run average, held opposing batters to a .099 batting average (51 for 515) and struck out 254 batters in 156.1 innings.
"Last year gives us extra incentive to go out there and do it again and show it wasn't a fluke and we can do it again," said Cox, who has a 19-3 record and is accustomed to postseason play after she was crucial to La Cañada's semifinal run in 2010.
Of course it's far from a two-girl show at La Cañada, which boasts seven players — Selina Mohr (.355), Monroe (.349), Kelsey Drange (.333), Alyssa Stolmack (.305), Jessica Ogden (.301), Katy Lee (.299) and Olivia Leyva (.294) — with batting averages above .290.
With everything looking up for the Spartans, the focus is staying grounded.
"Last year all through the playoffs, our coaches kept telling us not to get in front of ourselves even though we were ranked No. 1," Monroe said. "It's the same this year, we just have to make sure we don't get ahead of ourselves."
Still, the hope is everything will play out like last year.