It is a good bet that when a high school team has success, it is due to a strong senior class.
The Poynette softball team is one of those teams that received great leadership on its way to a second straight WIAA Division 3 state title last weekend, but it didn’t come from a large group of seniors.
The Pumas have just one senior, Ashley Hellenbrand, on their roster. Despite not having any classmate to help her, she played a pivotal role in their run to another title.
“She has meant a lot to us,” Poynette junior Zoie Ramberg said. “It is sad that she is leaving and we will have a big spot to fill.”
After playing her final game in a Poynette uniform, Hellenbrand was emotional, as she celebrated the state title.
“It is everything I wanted and I dreamed about,” Hellenbrand said “It is just phenomenal. I’m sad that I won’t play with these girls again with Poynette on our chests, but it is an amazing way to end my high school career.”
Poynette coach Bob Tomlinson pointed to the leadership of Hellenbrand as a big reason the Lady Pumas won their fifth state title.
“Ashley is the glue of our team,” Tomlinson said. “Whatever has to be done, she just does it. She is like a mother hen. She gets everything organized. We couldn’t have done this without Ashley.”
Being the lone senior was not easy for Hellenbrand.
“It was tough because there was a lot of responsibility,” Hellenbrand said. “The juniors helped me with leadership. It was great having a great group of girls to be around.”
Hellenbrand, a third baseman, came into the state tournament batting .426 with 32 runs, 29 RBI, three doubles, three home runs and a triple.
While she didn’t have a hit in a 7-0 win over Prescott and a 4-0 championship victory over Campbellsport, Hellenbrand did make several key plays in the field.
“To be a part of history with back-to-back titles is amazing,” Hellenbrand said. “I can’t even speak enough of how proud I am of all the girls.”
Junior pitcher Casey Fountain knows the team will miss her presence next season.
“She means so much to this team,” Fountain said. “She is special. It is going to be sad not having her here next year.”
Junior Lucy Cuff was happy the Pumas could send Hellenbrand out the right way.
“We are sad to see her go, but we are happy we could have her go out like this,” Cuff said.
With such a talented group returning, Hellenbrand knows she is leaving the team in good hands.
“They only have one spot to fill and I feel there are plenty of talented girls to fill my spot,” Hellenbrand said. “So, I expect them to do big things again next year.”