Asked to write an English paper this year about something she loves, Chesterton junior softball player Sydney Cooley didn't scramble for a subject.
"I just sat down and wrote about what it felt like before and after the sectional championship," Cooley said. "It overwhelmed me at some points, and I actually cried when I wrote it.
"When you're younger, it's about the cheering, the snacks and being with your friends. Now, it gets more personal. When you truly love the game, it comes down to that you'll do anything to play it."
Cooley said she received the second-highest grade in the class on the assignment. Chesterton earned high marks last season, advancing to the Class 4A semistate. Almost the entire roster is back this season, and Cooley is ready for more success.
"As for our competition, everyone else has gotten better," she said, "but so have we. I'm just excited to see where this season will take us."
Cooley has enjoyed two quality seasons for the Trojans. Her average dropped close to 100 points as a sophomore, but she came on in the postseason and finished with a .360 average, six home runs and 28 RBIs.
"I've matured with the finer points of the game," Cooley said. "I used to go up and think about hitting the ball hard. Now I have started to realize techniques about placement and other things. It's intricate, but I enjoy every minute of it."
Cooley, who played outfield the last two seasons when she wasn't on the mound, is moving in to third base as a junior.
"She's got the glove and the arm to be a corner infielder," Chesterton coach LouAnn Hopson said. "I know she likes to pitch, but she's been pretty receptive to changes."
Cooley was 4-1 on the mound last season with a 1.54 ERA, and she's once again the second option to Morehead State recruit Megan Tymorek.
The duo are part of group of five players, including senior Megan Matheny, juniors Mallory McKee and Sarah Richards, that have been learning at the varsity level since they were freshmen.
"It's been fun to see each one of them develop and become more confident," Hopson said. "They've come into their own and will hopefully be a consistent force to deal with."
Cooley also gained some confidence by taking part in the Queen of Daimonds Showcase North last January in Ohio. She received first team honors in a field of 368 players from 20 states and two Canadian provinces.
"I think it not only raised my level of competition, it raised my level of respect for other players," she said. "I learned how to handle myself and work well with others.
"Now I want to help (Chesterton) be as good as it can be. I'm really excited for this year."