In prep softball this season, there are plenty of the usual suspects sitting atop Colorado's 5A Front Range League midway through the 2018 season.
There is, however, also a surprise team that is doing far better than expected this fall — the Monarch Coyotes.
After winning no more than four games in either of the past two seasons, the Coyotes area already off to a hot start at 9-4. If the season ended today, the Coyotes would have already surpassed their win totals from any season in the past decade.
So, what's the deal?
"There's a couple things that are happening," Coyotes head coach Elizabeth Wilson said. "For one, we have eight seniors on our team this year. And this being my second year with the team, they've definitely settled in to having me as the head coach and that's made it easier to gel as a team. Our confidence is better and the execution is better, and we're not having that one inning every game where we're just bleeding the whole inning.
"All the credit goes to the players. They're in such a better mental place and it's showing on the field."
Wilson said the Coyotes are definitely playing an easier schedule that has included some smaller schools and is designed to give them competition against which they feel they can win. But even against those teams they expected to hang around with, the Coyotes are winning. They're even competing against some of the top Front Range teams like Broomfield, against whom they went into extra innings against on Monday night.
On top of a more winnable slate, the Coyotes have also received some unexpected reinforcements in the form of several newcomers.
After not playing last season, talented senior Peyton Allen, who is currently tied with senior Payton Thomas for the team lead with three home runs, returned to the team in 2018 to finish out her prep career with the Coyotes. Transfer catcher Trish Leins came over from Holy Family and is batting .500 in four games after sitting out the initial portion of the season. Freshmen Lola Jarrett, Kiera Sager and Tara Boehmler have all contributed.
"Because we're doing so well, we're finally seeing that we can execute good ball and minimize errors," Wilson said. "We'll just continue to be strong at bat and be consistent, game after game. I didn't even realize until the other day that the playoffs could be an option for us because we've been so focused on the day-to-day. That has work for us so far, so we'll just keep our heads down and keep working hard."
With Loveland and Fossil Ridge sitting atop the 5A RPI standings, fourth-ranked Legacy isn't far behind in fifth. A perennial powerhouse, the Lightning (11-3, 5-0 Front Range) are undefeated in league play and appear to be dominant as ever, while Broomfield (8-6-1, 3-1 Front Range) trails just behind the Lightning in the league standings.
Fairview is thus-far winless in league play but owns a respectable 7-6 overall record.