Chippewa Valley softball hopes to finish near the top of the MAC White

By: Mark Vest | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 3, 2017

 Clinton Township Chippewa Valley junior center fielder Gina Liss prepares to field a ball at a recent team practice. Chippewa coach Claire Kapral referred to Liss, along with her other junior captain, Ivy Velazquez, as phenomenal.

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley junior center fielder Gina Liss prepares to field a ball at a recent team practice. Chippewa coach Claire Kapral referred to Liss, along with her other junior captain, Ivy Velazquez, as phenomenal.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — After finishing in fourth place in the Macomb Area Conference White Division in 2014, and third the last two seasons, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley softball coach Claire Kapral said she is hoping to make a big push this year.

Kapral has some girls who are “ready to go,” and she thinks this season could be a promising one.

This is her fourth season as the team’s coach, and she feels like she can now call the program her own.

“This is finally 100 percent my program, my team,” Kapral said. “The program is really buying into selflessness. … The girls genuinely like each other; they enjoy being there. … They’re (going to) support each other even if they’re the ones not playing — they’re okay with someone taking their spot for a game here or there. I think that’s a huge stride that we’ve made with our program.”

As for her hope that Chippewa can have a top-two finish in division play, Kapral understands the team will have to make its way through a “very competitive” MAC White in order to accomplish that.

Aside from what it would mean for the program, Kapral would also like to achieve that feat for the team’s two seniors: Cherie Allard and Sarah Stevens.

“I would be ecstatic, because our girls have been working so hard,” Kapral said of finishing near the top of the MAC White. “Cherie Allard is (the) only player on the team who has been with me four years, since I took over the program. … She’s been a great leader and example for us. I would love for her to go out on top. She deserves it.  Sarah Stevens has been with us for two years — another great player.”

Kapral also referred to Gina Liss and Ivy Velazquez — who are the team’s junior captains — as phenomenal.

Stevens, who is expected to catch and play second base, shared her observations about how things have been shaping up with the team.

“I really think we’ve improved since last year,” she said. “I think every year we keep getting better, practicing harder and getting more ready to win the White.”

Allard agreed.

“We have a strong team, so if we just keep it going as it is, then I feel like we have a chance,” said Allard, who plays third base. “I (want to) continue to keep going in districts and end up in regionals.”

Kapral said there are a lot of veterans on the team, so she expects the defense and their plate presence to be strong. 

“I expect us to be a little bit more clutch when we need a base hit or a run. We’ve been working a lot on that — attacking the first and second pitch. That’s really what we’re looking for,” she said.

Kapral — who considers infield defense to be one of the team’s primary strengths — is ready to see what her 2017 squad can do.

“We’re very excited,” she said. “The girls are pumped. (The) coaching staff is really excited. We’re eager to get out there.”

Up next, Chippewa hosts Rochester High at 4 p.m. April 10.

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