Hannah Isley did her best to keep it together on Wednesday minutes after the Albia softball team’s 4-0 loss to Roland-Story in the Class 3A state softball tournament semifinals. The prospect of playing her final game ever in an Albia High School uniform, however, almost made Isley break down in tears.
Somehow, Isley held back the tears just two days before the end of her final season of high school softball as the Lady Dees will wrap up an amazing season at the Harlan Rogers Sports Complex playing for third place at state against Humboldt. After scoring over 1,000 points on the basketball court, placing at both the Drake Relays and state track and field meets and competing in a pair of state softball tournaments, Isley will step off the field for the final time as a Lady Dee on Friday before donning the purple and gold of the Northern Iowa Panthers next year.
“I’m excited to get on the field with the girls, but at the same time I’m dreading it because it is going to be the last time,” Isley said. “It may not be the state title, but hopefully we can go out with a win. That’s the next best thing.”
It’s not exactly the game Albia wanted to playing in on Friday. The Lady Dees had planned all year on returning to the Class 3A state championship game after falling to Davenport Assumption in the same game last summer.
Still, head coach Larry Achenbach views this final day on the diamond as a chance to accomplish something special, especially for seniors Isley and Erin Heaton.
“We’ve got two seniors that have a chance to do something not a lot of senior softball players get the chance to do. We’ve got two seniors that will play their final game at Harlan Rogers Park,” Achenbach said. “Not a lot of coaches get the chance to coach their last game here either, so it will be special day for everyone on the team.”
Achenbach has already announced this season will be his final one at Albia after two stints that last 10 combined years and produced four state tournament appearances. Win or lose, Albia will finish in the top five at state in all four state tournament trips under Achenbach, who has a group of players looking to send their head coach out in style.
“We definitely want to win this final game for him. He’s not only a great coach, but he’s been kind of like a dad for some of us,” sophomore catcher Alex Beard said of Achenbach. “It’s going to be hard to see him go, but we love him and we wish him the best.”
Achenbach talked about Isley, one of the best all-around athletes Albia High School has ever produced. Achenbach has coached Isley in both softball and girls basketball at different times over the past four years.
“In 21 years of coaching, Hannah is one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen,” Achenbach said. “She works so hard. There aren’t a lot of athletes that are as driven to succeed as Hannah. She’s truly earned everything she’s achieved.”
Win of lose, Achenbach will step off the field for the final time on Friday before stepping into his new role as superintendent at Chariton starting with the upcoming school year. Having already coached his final game at Albia earlier in the postseason, Achenbach plans on taking a momento from his final game as a high school coach by collecting some of the infield surface from the Harlan Rogers Sports Complex.
“I haven’t collected the dirt yet,” Achenbach said. “I’ll save that for Friday.”
Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CourierScott.