SALEM — Carley Davis looked down for a minute, pondered her response to the question and then took a deep breath before diving into her answer.
In a year where Turner Ashby softball finished as state runner-up for the first time since 2014, made it back to the state tournament for the second straight season and won the Valley District regular-season and tournament championships, it was something outside the 60-foot diameter of the field that stuck with the Knights.
“The team aspect,” Davis said. “I know it’s ironic to say, but I haven’t played on a team that has that compatibility. We’re all friends, all best friends. This has definitely been my favorite team.”
Davis, a senior who will now prepare to play at the Division I level when she heads off to Elon in the fall, has played a lot of softball throughout her life so her words spoke volumes to just how special the bond was with this year’s TA team.
In fact, Davis, Makayla Cyzick and Ashton Richmond — the lone trio of seniors for the Knights — have played together for over 10 years, they said, but the friendships forged throughout the roster ranged from seniors all the way down to freshmen.
There were four freshmen, four sophomores and five juniors on the Turner Ashby roster this season, which is the type of balance Knights third-year coach Clint Curry often said he liked in order to help build for the future as well, and the players spoke often throughout the year about how there was never any issues with team chemistry.
“The biggest thing that I take away is the friendship, the character of this team,” Curry said. “We are so close, so tight-knit. We have a lot of special moments together. I hate to even think about it right now because I’ll get too emotional. It’s been very special. For the younger kids to see that leadership, it’s unbelievable. They’re all a huge asset to this program.”
The camaraderie between the Knights also helped the players hold each other accountable, Davis said, without any feelings getting hurt.
Despite their constant work with each other throughout their entire careers, Cyzick and Davis often pointed to this season as being the turning point in their relationship on the field and both said it was a big reason for their individual success.
“I knew I wouldn’t get pitched to much,” Davis said. “I got walked a lot. I had to focus on being disciplined and even when they do pitch to me, I still have to get my pitch. As a team, our team aspect was so special. We all got along with each other so well.”
Often throughout games, Davis was seen standing up, offering encouragement to the entire infield and, most importantly, to Cyzick.
Before she heads off to Winthrop in the fall, Cyzick said that those confidence-building speeches from Davis each game is what led to the best season of her varsity career.
“I’ve grown as a pitcher,” Cyzick said. “Last year, I was a little unstable on the mound. This year, I’ve grown leaps and bounds with my presence on the mound. Carley has really helped me. I’ve taken a lot of the game with me. I’m going to be able to go into college knowing a little more, being a little more mature than I was last year.”
The maturity gained throughout TA’s deep postseason run was something that Curry said existed within every player on the roster, but was gained by the leadership of the three seniors.
“We’re losing three awesome seniors,” Curry said. “This program wouldn’t be where it’s at without those seniors. It’s tough on me as a head coach. Them kids work hard each and every day. They do anything and everything we ask. If we asked them to play at midnight, they’d suit up and play at midnight.”
The willingness to learn and the lessons taught throughout the Knights’ extend season are something Davis said the team will hold with them for the rest of their lives.
So naturally, when asked about what she’d take away from the season herself, TA sophomore shortstop Gracie Moyers didn’t stray far from the same answer her senior teammates gave just moments before.
“Playing as a team,” Moyers said. “Honestly, everything that we’ve done this season was all from a team effort. If one person was down, someone was picking them up. That’s probably the biggest thing.”