By Tim Chambers
“I just wanted to do what was best for my team,” said Alexis Hendley this week’s senior spotlight Longhorn. Her head coach was excited about the progress that she had made during the offseason.
Hendley has always swung a big stick for the Lady Longhorns’ softball team, but she realized that the Horns would be much better if they could develop a starting catcher allowing some of their regulars that could catch to play other positions. She took over behind the plate for Emmy Miller showing tons of promise, especially after their opening game with Ashe County and their big win at Sullivan East.Hendley nearly hit one out of the park on the road at Ashe County with the Horns trailing by one to put them back in front and helping them earn a 9-8 victory. She said that nobody expected the season to end like it did, but she is thankful for the games that she got to play in.
“We had a very good team,” said Hendley. “We did well in the play-in games and were 2-0 after the win at East. We realized that we had the players to win a conference championship and I was confident that we could play with Elizabethton and Unicoi. It will always be in the back of my mind wondering what would have happened, but it also makes you realize to make the most of every opportunity that you get and to not take it for granted.”
That’s why Hendley learned how to be a catcher because she didn’t take getting a starting position for granted despite being a senior.
“We had a lot of good freshman and underclassmen players, so they were always pushing you for playing time. I can play a lot of positions, which helps, so I figured it would be a plus for the team and me to learn how to do one more.”
Coach Greg Reece agreed.
“Alexis has played for me since grade school. She is probably one of the best utility players that I’ve ever had since I’ve been coaching. She can play anywhere you put her except for pitcher. And they good part about it is she can play all of them well. We were going to be able to keep Emmy Miller healthy because of her sacrifice. We’ve not always agreed on everything, but she definitely been a team player and a joy to coach. She wants to go into nursing, and I know she’ll be successful in whatever she does.”
Hendley said they were a confidence level, like none other after the team beat Sullivan East.
“We beat East and were suppose to play Unicoi two night later at home. We were pumped and ready to make another statement because the District tournament was to be played up here at home. Everything was falling in place for us. We were ready to make a name for Johnson County softball, and I think everyone was aware of the talent that we had.”
Spoken well by a young lady that began playing T-Ball at age five. She said the frustration was now starting to kick in, knowing that she would never play another high school game again.
“It’s got me very upset that I worked in the offseason like I did to get better so I could try and help our team, but it’s also made me realize to cherish the time you have with your teammates and friends and never to take that for granted because it can be quickly taken away.”
Hendley said besides the East win that beating Elizabethton here sophomore season was huge.
“We had East on the ropes several times, but it was the first time that we had ever beaten them. I’ve never jumped as high as I did after we got that third out and won the game over there.”
Alexis is the daughter of Justin and Elizabethton Rider.She closed with thanking the school administration for making graduating a reality.
“We’ve made a lot of good memories even though our year got cut short, but I understand why. I’ve learned to paint since I’ve been out of school and helped with redoing our house. I actually painted my bedroom.”
She and her teammates had kept in contact and have even met and practiced a bit with one another before they closed the parks.
“We are still doing things and making memories,” added Hendley. We get to have a graduation, and it will mean a lot to me, having our principal hand me my diploma walking across the state. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I feel like the school system still did the right thing. They are giving us a graduation, and to me, that matters most. Everybody will remember the class of 2020 forever, and I hope that people remember me as a good team player that got along with everyone and who put her teammates first. I want to thank my coaches Greg Reece, Emily Harrison, and Abby Reece, for giving me the opportunity to play high school ball and working with me in junior high to make me a better player.”