Payson High School girls softball coach Will Dunman said he hopes this is the year the Lady Longhorns win a state title.
"I'm very lucky this year," Dunman said. "I've got two outstanding pitchers coming back."
Starting hurlers Rachel Ray, a senior, and Brenna Zumbro, a junior, return after leading the Lady Longhorns to a 25-7 record last year.
"They were very dominant last year," Dunman said. "We finished second in the conference last year behind Show Low. We lost to them twice, but we swept everyone else."
Taking the field behind Ray and Zumbro will be a veteran team. Dunman only lost five players to graduation.
Senior catcher Trista Carlton is one of the returning veterans.
"She has just been solid behind the plate since she started varsity," Dunman said. "This is her third year, and my pitchers are very comfortable with her calling games. Her work ethic is very good."
Senior outfielder Laura Crabtree also returns.
"She swung a hot bat at the end of last year, and we expect a lot of good things from her," Dunman said. "She's really consistent."
Dunman is also excited about junior Doni Miotto, who stepped in last year and helped the team overcome injuries.
"She earned some starting playing time so we expect a lot of good things out of her," he said.
The coach expects defense to be a strong point for the team this year.
"We have a fairly young infield right now, but through the practices that we've had, the kids have worked really hard," Dunman said. "It's been nice to see them work so hard during the preseason."
Junior Sherra Johnson, a transfer student from the Valley, provides some valuable infield experience.
"She'll play first base and outfield for us, and we're excited to have her," Dunman said. "Through the first couple of weeks, she's swinging a pretty good bat."
While Show Low figures to be tough again this year, Dunman is not taking any team for granted.
"You never can underestimate anybody in our conference," he said. "With us sweeping everyone except Show Low last year, they're going to be out for us.
"My goal is to get the girls to understand that. The motto I'm going for this year is just to get it done -- get it done game by game, practice by practice. Do the little things that make you successful," he said.
Prior to coming to Payson five years ago, Dunman coached girls softball in Flagstaff.