Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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March 30, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL: Sisterly bond

McNeece, Durden provide a 1-2 punch for the Athens softball team

Athens — For most sisters on a high school softball team, a sibling rivalry can emerge throughout a season.

For stepsister’s Haley Durden and Josee McNeece, they say you will not see that rivalry on the softball diamond.

That’s because they don’t play the same positions.

Durden is a sophomore shortstop, while McNeece is a junior catcher for the Athens Lady Hornets.

Both players said having that sisterly bond on the diamond is special because they know the game so well.

“It is nice knowing that I have someone out there that can read me like I do,” McNeece said. “I know she has my back and I have her’s so it is nice to know you have someone out there that has your back.”

Darden said their bond helps make them better players.

“It is good to know that she knows what I am going to do and I know what she is going to do,” Darden said. “It is good to know that you know each other like that.”

First year head coach Jamie Poteete said both players are like mini coaches for the Lady Hornets.

“They are hard workers and help me to motivate some of those younger players that need it,” Poteete said. “Haley is still quite young as a sophomore and she was freshman of the year with our district last year. She is an amazing player and knows the sport inside and out. I feel they are helping me build that big freshman class that we have.

I know they will be amazing next year and they know what each other is thinking and can read each other’s minds.”

With both girls’ being multi sport athletes at Athens, the transition can be tough for them.

Durden also plays volleyball, while McNeece is a point guard for the Lady Hornets basketball team.

“It can take a little bit of time to transition because if we are not in the cage before we start softball it can take a little bit of time to transition,” McNeece said.

Poteete will use Durden and McNeece in the first two spots in the lineup and said they can figure out a pitcher’s timing during the opening warmup.

“They are really good at reading the other team and they can read the pitcher’s as they are warming up,” Poteete said. “They know what to expect and they play year round for so long that it is instilled in them with where the pitch will come.”

Durden said the relationship between her and McNeece helps them to understand when to take advantage of throwdowns on stolen base attempts.

“It is good to know that she knows what I am going to do and I know what she is going to do,” Durden said. “It is good to know that you know each other like that.”

Poteete said both players have their strong points to help make the team better.

“As far as defense they have it because Haley is a very strong defensive player,” Poteete said. “Josee is very strong defensively and moves well and reads the pitcher well and is a wall behind the plate.

As far as offensively, they need to execute better. Josee needs to be able to get faster and work on her big hitting. Haley needs to get faster with her speed up the line so she can get ready for college softball.”

McNeece said they find their special way of motivating each other after games to make them better players.

“We will joke around about stuff that we need to do but then we will get serious about it all,” McNeece said. “We will talk about what we need to do about it, what the team needs to do about it to make things better. We will also talk about what should have happened and what should not have happened.”

Poteete said with this being her last year as head coach at Athens, she is sad to be leaving Durden and McNeece as her husband is now the head coach at Northeastern Oklahoma University.

“It makes me sad to not be able to see Haley and Josee lead the team next year,” Poteete said. “It makes me sad and it is frustrating to not see these girls after this year.”

For the two step sisters, the Athens Lady Hornets fans can get used to seeing their names as they will have a lot more action to see from this tandem before their high school career is through.

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