Christine Lightner has quietly been building a softball dynasty at Smethport High School.
Since taking the reins of the Hubbers program in 2003, Lightner has racked up 97 victories and just 11 losses, won two District 9 championships (2003 and 2004) and strung together four consecutive seasons of at least 20 wins.
Last year's Hubbers marched through the regular season unscathed, allowing just 10 runs along the way, before being ousted in the District 9 Class A semifinals by eventual PIAA state champion, Curwensville.
With three Big 30 all-stars returning this season, and a winning attitude already in place, Lightner and the Hubbers should contend for another District 9 title.
"Having suffered our only loss last year to the eventual PIAA state champions by a score of 4-3, we're looking forward to another successful season," Lightner said.
"We plan to work hard to reach our potential and utilize our talent to achieve the highest possible level of success. These girls have a desire to meet personal and team goals."
Back are Big 30 all-star pitchers and four-year starters Emma Hahn and Diana Phalon, as well as all-star catcher Lauren Kinniburgh. In a seven game stretch last season, Hahn and Phalon combined to allow just a single run. The three seniors have compiled a career record of 61-9.
'These girls are the team's foundation," Lightner pointed out.
Juniors Alyssa Cunningham (2B/OF), Nikki Hoffower (3B/OF) and Bobbi Jo Mitchell (3B) have also been big contributors to the Hubbers' recent string of success.
An influx of talented underclassmen could also help Smethport extend its 20-win season streak to five in a row.
"Joining the team are 10 promising young ninth graders who we believe will round out an already solid base, giving us some depth," Lightner said.
"With previous success, experience and senior leadership we hope to achieve great things this season."
Elsewhere below the border, Coudersport will look to build off a successful season in which it went 13-5 with a loss to Elk County Catholic in the District 9 playoffs.
Coach Scott Andrews' team put together a nine-game winning streak in 2007 and set a school record for most runs scored and fewest runs allowed in a season.
It finished the campaign ranked fifth among schools in D-9.
Andrews will welcome back starting pitchers Karli Duffee and Megan Hau, both juniors, as well Big 30 all-star shortstop, Kelly McVay.
"Karli and Megan have shared much of the pitching duties in the past two seasons and will continue to do so again," Andrews said. "But they will have the luxury of sporadic time off if needed due to freshmen pitchers Korianne McManus and Brielle Whitman."
Andrews said many of his players have been a part of the Coudersport youth programs for several years and understand the ins and outs of the Falcons program.
"Hopefully this will speed the learning process of the younger players," he said. "Last year we suffered a disappointing loss in the playoffs and I'm hoping that will be a motivator to this year's group."
Continuing the trend, Bradford and Otto-Eldred will also have plenty of experience to lean on this season.
Nichole Spindler, now in her second year, has 13 letterwinners returning. Highlighting that group are seniors Erin Comilla, who hit .321 in the clean-up spot last year, and pitcher Shelly Fuhrman, who registered 58 strikeout in 50 innings while battling season-long injuries.
The Terrors, meanwhile, return three of their four infielders, including two-time Big 30 all-star Brittany Price. The senior short stop hit .508 with an on-base percentage of .690 last season. Junior first baseman Kacey Northrup led O-E in batting with a .514 clip in 2007.
Following is a capsule look at the Pennsylvania teams in the Big 30:
Coach: Nichole Spindler, second year
2007 record: 9-9
Roster: Nicole Keane (Sr., 1B); Mindy Clouser (Sr., OF); Erin Comilla (SR., SS, 321. BA, 15 RBI); Shelley Fuhrman (Sr., P, 58 SO, 6 BB, 50 IP); Sabina Vecellio (Jr., OF); Brittany Harsen (Jr., OF); Meghan Hollenbeck (Jr., OF); Kristin Dittman (Jr., OF); Tate Slaven (So., C); Michele Keane (So., 2B, .309 BA, 22 R); Jessie Mascho (So., C/P); Jonnie Mascho (So., 3B); Ashlie Harrington (So., P/OF); Olivia Chapmon (So., OF); Meagan Hillard (Fr., OF/3B); Ryleigh Langianese (Fr., OF); Rachel Speaker (Fr., OF); Danni Hollenbeck (Fr., OF).
To note: Return 13 letterwinners from last year's 9-9 team, including pitcher Shelly Fuhrman, who missed most of last season due to injury.
Coach speak: "If we can avoid any major injuries, we should be competitive in the league. Defensively, our senior ace, Shelly Fuhrman, throws a variety of pitches, has great control, and has a lot of experience on the mound. She was hurt for most of the 2007 season, but is back and throwing well. We have a strong infield back this year, and we hae a lot of depth in the outfield.
"Offensively, we hope to improve on last year's team batting average of .225. Hitting has been our main focus in the pre-season, and this season we will face quite a few tough pitchers. We need more consistency throughout the line-up in order to be competitive against good teams."
Coach:Aaron Bowes, second year
2007 record: 3-13
Roster: Whitney Lewis (Sr., 1B); Alexis Narby (Sr., C); Dionna Orner (Sr., SS, team MVP); Erin Cherry (Jr., OF); Courtney Glover (Jr., OF); Shelby Summers (Jr., OF); Danika Grom (Jr., P); Tasha Smith (Jr., P); Brady Belkowski (Fr., 3B); Kateyln Basgall (So., OF); Georgia Clingan (So., OF); Sami Andrus (So., INF); Lauren Topolski (So., INF); Hillary Lamont (Fr., Util); Karli McLaughlin (Fr., Util).
To note: The Red Raiders tallied 31 runs in two regular season victories compared to just 25 for the rest of the season.
Coach speak: "I'm very excited about the start of the season. This team has tremendous potential and so far has worked hard to prepare for the season."
Coach: Scott Andrews, fifth year
2007 record: 13-5
Roster: Melissa Gerner (Sr., C); Kelly McVay (Sr., SS, Big 30 all-star); Morgan Shaffer (Sr., OF); Emilee Bertrand (Jr., INF); Kayla Bohn (Jr., OF); Tigan Chiumento (Jr., OF); Katie Dovensky (Jr., OF); Karli Duffee (Jr., P/INF); Megan Hau (Jr., P/INF); Mo McCusker (So., INF/C); Marissa Kinder (So., INF/OF); Serena Unser (Fr., OF); Tori Brown (Fr., INF); Kori McManus (Fr., P/INF); Jenna Matzinger (Fr., OF); Brielle Whitman (Fr., P/INF).
To note: Falcons finished the season ranked No. 5 in District 9. Team set school record for most runs scored and fewest allowed in single season.
Coach speak: "We have a good influx of young players this year, some of which will see steady playing time. We hope to continue to build on the improvements the program has seen in the last two years thanks to the help of solid pitching and defense. I hope to see more from both our returning pitchers, Karlie Duffee and Megan Hau, who have pitched extremely well the last two seasons. We hope to be fundamentally solid and decrease the number of mistakes we made both offensively and defensively the last couple of seasons."
Coach: Jennifer Burt, second year
2007 record: 4-12
Roster: Chelsea Saulter (Sr., P/1B); Lauren Donovan (Sr., INF); Hillary Wilson (Sr., 1B); Kaitlyn Antonioli (Jr., C); Brittany Kellogg (Jr., SS/OF); Mariah Kelley (Jr., OF); Lexi Mitchell (Jr., 1B/OF); Alexa Hunt (Jr., OF); Sam Walker (So., OF/C); Megan Mesler (So., P); Brielle Cornelus (Fr., 1B/OF); Liz Rix (Fr., SS/P); Tara Warriner (Fr., 1B); Krystina George (Fr., OF); Casey Knapp (Fr., OF).
To note: Team returns six starters from last year's team.
Coach speak: "The girls have worked really hard and improved since last season. If our pitchers can throw consistently and not walk a lot of batters, we should be a competitive team. We have six girls returning from last year's team, and lots of new faces that have the potential to be good ball players."
Coach: Carl Templin, third year
2007 record: 10-11
Roster: Brittney Price (Sr., SS, .508 BA, .690 OBP); Sophia Tyler (Sr., P); Kacey Northrup (Jr., 1B, .514 BA); Breanna Price (Jr., 2B); Taylor Thomas (So., P); Cassie Cochran (So., DH/3B); Jessica Veilleux (So., OF); Jordan Beckwith (So., C/P/OF, 3 HR); Frances Frederick (Jr., OF); Kaitlyn Evingham (Fr., C/OF/3B); Joelle Owens (Fr., OF); Andrea Finlan (Fr., OF); Kylie Lamont (Fr., OF); Mackenzie Stone (So., OF)
To note: Returning all but one infielder from last year's team. Price was named to the Big 30 all-star team the last two seasons.
Coach speak: "Our goal is to finish above .500 and to make the playoffs which is not easy in this league where you have Smethport, Coudersport, Bradford and Nothern Potter who all have strong pitching. We have four freshmen who will have to step up and fill a few voids to make us as good as I know we can be. There is a lot of talent on this team."
Coach: David Roae, fourth year
2007 record: 5-14
Roster: Lauren Delacour (Sr., 1B); Heather Stuckey (Sr., P); Breanna Coder (Sr., C); Lindsay Fox (Sr., CF); Tricia Roller (Sr., P); Shelby Gleason (Jr., 1B); Stacey Johnson (Jr., 2B); Emily Schultz (Jr., INF); Sarah Gordon (Jr., INF); Jessie Windsor (Jr., INF); Amarae Reinard (So., 3B); Katlyn Kio (So., OF); Shanel Halle (So., SS); Brittany Drabert (So., OF/C); Lynea Gustafson (So., INF); Sara Brodhun (Fr., INF/P); Breanna Foster (Fr., OF); Kyley Mickle (Fr., INF); Nicole Andrus (Fr., OF); Cora Bova (Fr., INF).
To note: The Gators will welcome back 11 letterman from last year's team.
Coach speak: "We have a talented group of seniors, and along with our returning lettermen, we have some nice experience to draw upon. We are in good shape as far as pitching goes with returning starter Heather Stuckey along with previous starter Tricia Roller, who is rejoining the team this year. Our overall team defense should be pretty solid this year if the girls continue to improve on what they did last year. Our team goal is a winning record and to go to the playoffs."
Coach: Chris Lightner, sixth year
2007 Record: 20-1
Roster- Dianna Phalon (Sr., P/SS); Emma Hahn (Sr., P/OF); Lauren Kinniburgh (Sr., C); Alyssa Cunningham (Jr., 2B/OF); Nikki Hoffower (Jr., 3B/OF); Erica Lathrop (Jr., 1B); Bobbi Jo Mitchell (Jr., 3B); Taylor Burdick (So., SS/OF); Kayla Berlin (So., C/OF); Danielle Nielson (So., 2B/P); Jenna Duffy (So., 1B/OF/DH); Courtney Schuler (Fr., P/OF); Amanda Vossler (Fr., C/OF); Kaylee Birtcil (Fr., OF); Brooke Taggart (Fr., 3B/SS/C); Lisa Master (Fr., OF/1B/2B); Mary Wilber (Fr., 2B); Nicole Krelner (Fr., 1B); Cortney Lathrop (Fr., C/OF); Erica Vinca (Fr., 3B/OF); Logan Acker (Fr., P)
To note: Dianna Phalon, Emma Hahn, and Lauren Kinniburgh are 4-year starters and Big-30 all-star selections. Only loss last year was suffered early in the D9 playoffs to eventual PIAA state champion, Curwensville.
Coach speak: "We plan to work hard to reach our potential and utilize out talent to achieve our highest possible level of success. Our foundation, senior pitchers Emma Hahn and Dianna Phalon along with catcher Lauren Kinniburgh have a record of 61-9 overall.