By: Garrett Mitchell, Staff Writer
As the school year comes to an end, so too have spring sports seasons for scores of Woodruff High and Middle School athletes. As South Carolina continues its return to normalcy, Wolverine athletes enjoyed full seasons, which started in February. There were many highs, lows, growing pains, and successes among the Wolverine spring sports squads. For several seniors who will take their talents to the collegiate level, they bid farewell to a school they have represented with class and integrity for four or more years.
A Battle to the End
The Woodruff softball team was ever so close to qualifying for the 3A state playoffs. With only two teams from each region making the postseason manifest, a holdover consequence from previous COVID restrictions, the Lady Wolverines battled their way to a second-place tiebreaker game with perennial powerhouse Union County for a spot in the playoffs. The Lady Wolverines defeated the Lady Yellow Jackets in a 1-0 thriller earlier in the season but came up short in the winner-take-all final game, 2-1. With only three seniors on the roster and a very young pitching rotation, the Lady Wolverines are set up nicely for long-term success. Still, Woodruff will bid a fond farewell to senior shortstop Brooke Bailey and senior catcher Regan Kay. They will continue their careers for Spartanburg Methodist College.
The Streak Lives
The Woodruff girls’ soccer team did as they have done every season since 2004. The Lady Wolverines won their 18th consecutive region championship. They allowed only one goal to region foes over ten games, with a 2-1 win over Clinton putting a cap on the continuation of conference dominance. Woodruff advanced to the third round of the playoffs with a nail-biting 3-2 win over a talented Palmetto squad, but were felled by Daniel, the state’s number-one ranked 3A team, in a competitive contest two nights later. Next year’s team will see several new faces. Still, the torch of excellence will be picked up and carried by the next generation of Lady Wolverines eager to continue a legacy of winning.
For the First Time in a Long Time
The Woodruff boys’ soccer team truly made history in 2021. The Wolverines won just the second region championship in program history, and the first since 2009, by finishing conference play with a 9-1 record. It was a special season for the underdog Wolverines, who were, most nights, outsized by opponents. A scrappy unit, Woodruff made up for their lack of physical stature with a tenacious style of play that would stop opposing offenses in their tracks. The Wolverines prided themselves on playing bigger than they were. Night after night showed the size of their heart on the way to capturing the community’s adoration.
The Woodruff baseball team might not have posted the number of wins that the Wolverines are accustomed to. Still, it was a successful season in many other ways for an extremely youthful team that is growing in the game. Woodruff had but two seniors on a roster dominated by freshmen and sophomores. By season’s end were playing competitive baseball among the top teams in Region 3-3A. Though they won only two games, there will be many more victories for these young Wolverines in the future thanks to the experience gained this season. Growing pains hurt sometimes, but the end result is always worth the momentary discomfort. The Wolverines will back and ready to roar in 2022.
Serving up Success
The Woodruff boys’ tennis team just missed making the playoffs, again because only two teams from each region could qualify. Still, Coach Lea Ann Skinner’s squad grew by leaps and bounds and put together a very successful season. Woodruff is young, talented, and hungry for future success. Their resiliency and will to win served them well in 2021, and next season a young group will be even more experienced and ready to battle the top teams from Region 3.
Back on Track
For most of the 2021 season, the Woodruff girls’ and boys’ track teams did not have their focus on competition more than it was sent to head coach Duane Thompson whose battle with COVID-19 meant that half of the Wolverines’ schedule could not be completed. Coach Thompson thankfully made a full recovery. When Woodruff returned to the track, they competed well against their region brethren. Jayden McClintock is an up-and-coming star on the boys’ team, and Maggie Rhodes saw her sensational, championship-winning career come to a close as she prepares to run cross-country in college starting in the fall. It was a bookend season for the present and future of Woodruff track and field, but every Wolverine is thankful for their coach’s health. That, undoubtedly, was the biggest victory of all.