A change of scenery did Kristy Asher's 12-U Phenix team good last weekend in Topeka.
After struggling its way through competitive softball tournaments in Kansas City and Lawrence - many against the same opponents - Asher's team blazed through the June 24-26 American Fastpitch Assn.'s national qualifier tournament at the Shawnee County Girls Assn.
The Phenix had never played any of the teams they met up with in the tournament, something that Asher said helped her team to be more self-assured going into the games.
"They hadn't played any of the teams before so they hadn't lost to any of the teams before," Asher said. "They had so much confidence because they felt like they could win."
Most of the teams they played in this tournament were from around Topeka and were fairly matched with the Phenix's skill level, Asher said.
The Phenix was previously on a losing skid, including a disappointing performance at the Wham Bam Slam in Lawrence on June 18 and 19.
"They were really hoping to win on their home turf," Asher said. "The girls play to have fun, but they also play to be competitive. You can see it in their eyes and faces when they lose."
Winning the tournament in late June was refreshing, especially because the solid softball her team played was the best Asher had seen all season. The quality pitching and hot hitting were both factors that aided their run to the championship.
"Everything just clicked together. They executed plays and came through with hits," Asher said.
The boost was key in showing how the team has strengthened aspects of its game that were previously weaker, such as pitching.
"Our confidence was so high we didn't walk nearly as many people and we had a few more strikeouts," Asher said.
After a 3-1 finish in pool play, the Phenix advanced to the championship game where they met the Sting, the only team that delivered them a loss in pool play. Numerous errors and fatigue were to blame for the loss against the Sting in the teams' first meeting.
"We had a couple errors that led to couple more errors," Asher said.
In the first game, hitting suffered also, but the Phenix came through with hits throughout the rest of the weekend. Every player found a way to contribute to the team's wins, Asher said.
"Some players had a strong performance in the first game, and others really played well in the last game, but each one of them did something that made me proud."
Learning the game and applying from what they have learned from games and practices have been two factors that have provided a stronger foundation for their success as the season has progressed.
"If you listen to the coach, see what happens," Asher said.
The focus they put on having fun helps them to bounce back quickly, as they did in this tournament win. Asher said winning the title served as a catalyst for a mid-season turnaround.
"The girls got a taste of victory and now they know they can win," Asher said.
Last weekend Phenix-Asher played in the Heartland Firecracker tournament in Blue Springs, Mo.