By Dean Eversole
When the Greenville Green Wave held up the Division II softball trophy last Saturday it was more than a team accomplishment; it was a win for the entire community.
Located just 10 miles from the Indiana border, Greenville has never won an OHSAA team title, but that label has now been removed - forever.
After some past heartbreak, the trophy is in Greenville and the entire community celebrated. Signs lined the streets, the mayor declared an official "Lady Wave Day" and the local gymnasium was packed from rafter to rafter for the trophy presentation, a perfect ending to a prefect season.
Discovering why this group of players reached the pinnacle of the softball world is simple; team. And for evidence of this, one needs only to chat with the players. They talk of team, never using I and always quick to shuffle credit away from themselves and to a teammate.
The Wave's Abbie Shell is exhibit No. 1. Considered one the state's top softball players, Shell has signed with Wright State University. She won 26 games as the ace of the staff and is an All-Ohio selection. If she used "I" once in awhile it would be understandable, but yet she doesn't.
"We were all about the team. That was the key to our success," Shell said.
These are just not words coming from Shell, it was a theory that she lived on and off the field.
"During the winter my father, coach and I developed a throwing routine. Starting from November and going to the start of the season Kyli Gunkel (the Wave's No. 2 starter) and I went to the gym and threw. Having Kyli made it easier because it was a reminder that this was for the team, not just for me," Shell said.
Her talent was clear from the first day she walked into the Wave program and cut her teeth on the field. Greenville coach Jerrod Newland, who had just came to Greenville, promptly pushed Shell on the varsity field as a freshman. Along with Justine Shilt and Lisa Brinely, his five-year plan was starting and that trio comprised the foundation.
It was an eye-opening experience for Shell and her teammates.
"It was a whole new level. One thing we learned is that during practice you better be doing something all the time and if you weren't you had better find something real quick. I also found it weird because I was so much younger than everyone else," Shell said.
Newland's five-year plan was being accelerated by the fact the Wave were winning in bunches. Shell's freshman and sophomore year's they made the district finals, but were beaten both times. The finality of those games did not strike Shell.
"As a freshman I remember thinking the games were big, but it wasn't until I was a junior that I understood that 'hey' this is it for the seniors."
Last year Shell and the Wave lost a heartbreaking 2-1 regional final to Urbana, a defeat that was turned into a motivational tool.
"We have a sign at our field that reads, 'Regional runner-up 2006.' After every practice coach would say, 'To Urbana and back.' We would run down, touch the sign and run back. During the season we looked at every game as if it was against Urbana and we wanted revenge," Shell said.