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Despite losses at district, North Kitsap looks to right the ship at the state tournament behind 'team mom' Lamara Villiard

POULSBO — Since Lamara Villiard first stepped onto the softball field at North Kitsap wearing a team jersey, the senior catcher has had an impact on and off the field.

Villiard and the Vikings are headed back to the state 2A softball championships in Selah this week for the second year in a row. It’s also the fourth appearance in the program’s history. North has yet to make the trophy round but Villiard said the Vikings can be unbeatable when they all show up and are focused.

“We are incredibly good,” she said.

North Kitsap's Lamara Villiard fouls off a ball against Port Angeles in a West Central District 2A softball semifinal game Saturday, May 18, 2019, at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey. North earned the fourth seed to the state tournament. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
North Kitsap’s Lamara Villiard fouls off a ball against Port Angeles in a West Central District 2A softball semifinal game Saturday, May 18, 2019, at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey. North earned the fourth seed to the state tournament.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

North coach Jamie Smaaladen, a NK alum who was part of the team that made its first state appearance in 2004-05 as a fastpitch program, agreed with Villiard’s assessment. 

The question will be which Vikings team will come out to play at 10 a.m. against East Valley of Yakima on Friday at Carlon Park.

“If we can get our mindset right again, we’ll be OK,” Smaaladen said. “These girls, the last four years, they always fight no matter what. They might not come to warm up ready but you also never know when they’re also going to kick it into high gear.”

That was evident during the Olympic League season as North opened on a four-game winning streak, lost back-to-back games then won eight of their next nine games. The Vikings fought for the OL title against Port Angeles and Sequim late in the season but won No. 1 seed to district. That seed provided North with a first-round bye and the team won its winner-to-state game 17-2 against Orting.

The Vikings faced Port Angeles next with the Roughriders pulling out a dramatic 3-2 win in the bottom of the seventh to send NK into the third-fourth seeding game against Oly. 

Smaaladen said the loss to PA showed up for most of the game against the Trojans, which they won 5-2, as North’s bats came alive in the fifth but by then it was too late.

Villiard said a lack of conditioning hurt the Vikings at district and she wants to see the returning players change that process next season.

“We were good for one game and a few innings, then we played tired and we don’t play well when we’re tired,” she said. “I know I was mentally tired after the PA game, we were so close and you’re all into that game and when you lose, it’s super hard to come back. This team, we do our best when we’re having fun.” 

North Kitsap's Lamara Villiard laughs with assistant coach Seppi Gorecki after hitting an RBI single against Port Angeles in a West Central District 2A softball semifinal game Saturday, May 18, 2019, at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey. North earned the fourth seed to the state tournament. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
North Kitsap’s Lamara Villiard laughs with assistant coach Seppi Gorecki after hitting an RBI single against Port Angeles in a West Central District 2A softball semifinal game Saturday, May 18, 2019, at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey. North earned the fourth seed to the state tournament. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Despite the losses heading to state, Villiard is happy to extend the season to the last weekend of the high school season. Villiard will attend the University of Montana in the fall but is done with softball.

She still loves the game, the atmosphere and friendships with the girls, but Villiard wants to experience college without 5 a.m. workouts and four-hour practices.

“I still love it but I’ve been doing it for so long I’m ready to see what’s next for me,” she said, “what else am I good at in life?”

What’s she’s done for North Kitsap’s program the last four years is elevate not only the catcher role but also what it means to be a team leader.

“What she does for us off the field is absolutely amazing,” Smaaladen said. “Her leadership, she rallies the girls, she has the team dinners. She just keeps the girls in line.”

Villiard is, essentially, the team mom. 

“I was already the ‘Mom’ of my friend group and I just kind of morphed into actual team mom,” she said. “and then I (was named) captain and I just grew into it.”

Villiard also learned more than just softball the last four years.

“It’s about what you learn and how you face adversity when you’re down five runs and you somehow bring it back,” she said. 

Smaaladen said Villiard has improved behind the plate since her freshman season, and even then she showed immense promise. Villiard has learned more about the game and has called about half the games this season. 

North Kitsap catcher Lamara Villiard waits for the ball as Sequim's Raelyn Opdyke runs home during an Olympic League softball game against Sequim Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Poulsbo. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
North Kitsap catcher Lamara Villiard waits for the ball as Sequim’s Raelyn Opdyke runs home during an Olympic League softball game against Sequim Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Poulsbo. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

“That’s hard as a catcher to do and to just trust your call,” Smaaladen said. 

Villiard said this season went by quickly but also absorbed every moment knowing it was her last. 

“I was in the moment every single time,” she said.

Villiard, however, is positive softball will always remain part of her life.

“I’m definitely taking up slow pitch,” she said. “Catch me outside on Sundays in those leagues.”

State Softball

Friday

North Kitsap vs East Valley Yakima 10 a.m.

Olympic vs. Lynden, noon

*winners play at 4 p.m, losers at 2 p.m.

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