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May 29, 2013

Utica softball wins MAC White championship

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Utica pitcher Delaney Maki is pictured during a game earlier this season. The Chieftains are the champions of the Macomb Area Conference White Division.

Earlier this season, Utica softball coach Deonna Giacona said that if her team was able to win what she thought would be the program’s first league title in many years, and possibly ever, “it would be amazing.”

And according to Giacona, amazed is what her team was, as after finishing in second place the prior two seasons, Utica was able to break through to win a Macomb Area Conference White Division championship.

Despite chasing program history, Giacona wanted to take a low-key approach while the Chieftains (26-6 overall, 12-0 MAC White) were chasing the title. In fact, she said that it wasn’t until late in the second game of a doubleheader against St. Clair Shores Lake Shore May 15, when the team was in position to clinch the championship, that she shared with they players exactly what was on the line.

Now that they do know what it is they have accomplished, Giacona thinks that winning a MAC White title will provide her players with some memories that are likely to last a long time.

“The girls were ecstatic,” she said. “They know they’re part of something big now. They know whenever they walk into Utica, 10 years from now, that’s going to be (up on) the wall. There’s going to be a league championship there, and it’s from their year. It was a great experience.

“Around Utica, Eisenhower’s had success, (Sterling Heights) Stevenson’s had success. It’s time for Utica to have success.”

According to Giacona, the team has gotten a lot of support from administrators, parents and family members. She has been pleased with the response her team has received since winning the title.

“The teachers are talking about it — the staff,” she said. “It’s an exciting time right now. We’re not the only sport that’s doing well, so that’s also exciting to see Utica sports is coming around.”

Winning a championship can have long-lasting effects for sports programs, and Giacona would like to see just that for Utica softball.

“I’m hoping this is going to be the turning point for the program,” she said. “It took a few years to get things going. Anthony Amado, when he was there before me, had a great team. He had a lot of good things going. Now I’ve been there enough years, and I think I have a really good JV coaching squad that are getting my girls ready on JV for varsity. I think we could have a good program going right now.”

While Giacona wants her team to enjoy their accomplishment, there is still some business to attend to. The Chieftains are scheduled to face Utica Eisenhower in a Division 1 district semifinal game at 10 a.m. June 1 at Romeo.

Earlier this season, the Eagles defeated Utica 3-0 in a Macomb Classic tournament game, and Giacona would like to see her team even the season series when it matters the most.

“We saw them in tournament play, and they got the best of us that day,” she said. “I know my girls are ready. They’re ready to come back and prove to them that we’re just as good as they are. They’re ready to win. After that, we don’t know who’s going on from there. “

The winner of the game advances to the final, scheduled for 2 p.m. June 1, also at Romeo.

Utica’s and Eisenhower’s baseball teams are also scheduled to face each other in a district semifinal round game, scheduled for a noon start June 1 at Romeo.

The district final game is scheduled for 2 p.m. June 1 at Romeo.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.