Tiffany Kruse felt a void in her life. Monticello High School had a softball coaching position.
“It seemed like a perfect fit, and it has been,” Kruse said.
The Panthers captured the Tri-Rivers Conference championship this summer. Now the page turns, to the postseason.
Monticello (25-12) is the best bet to bust through the Cedar Valley Conference’s wall of dominance as Class 2A regionals begin Thursday.
“There are definitely some tough teams, teams we’re going to have to show up and play against,” Kruse said. “But once the tournament starts, nothing previous matters, and I think we have just as good a chance as anybody to advance.”
Kruse understands tournament success. She was on two state-tournament teams as a player at Edgewood-Colesburg, including a second-place run in 2002, when she was an eighth-grader.
She graduated from Ed-Co in 2006, then went on to have a distinguished career at Luther College. But something was missing this spring. Softball, specifically.
“It was the first year I wasn’t playing, and I had to fill that little void,” she said.
Stacie Breitbach stepped down at Monticello, and Kruse stepped in.
“I knew right away that these were girls I wanted to work with,” Kruse said.
The 2A pool has been lowered from 128 teams to 96 this year. Monticello has a first-round bye in Region 4, and hosts its quarterfinal game Friday against Thursday’s winner between Starmont and Maquoketa Valley.
To earn a trip to Fort Dodge, the Panthers likely will have to beat Cedar Valley Conference giants Wilton (ranked sixth) and Iowa City Regina (rated 11th) in the regional semifinal and regional final.
Seven Monticello starters are batting .300 or better, led by Kelsie Etten (.452).
Region 5 is headlined by two other CVC clubs — No. 1 Durant and always-dangerous Mid-Prairie — along with No. 9 Mediapolis.
Valley race goes to the wire
Area 4A schools don’t start postseason play until Saturday, but there’s a little drama yet to unfold as the Mississippi Valley Conference race hits the final day.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson (29-7 overall, 20-3 MVC) holds a half-game lead on Dubuque Hempstead (33-4, 20-4) in the Valley Division, and needs a sweep Thursday to clinch the title.
Jefferson has a double-header at Waterloo East (18-18, 13-10) while Hempstead hosts Linn-Mar (16-22, 9-15) for a twin-bill.
If both stumble, Iowa City West (29-9, 19-5) can re-enter the picture. The Women of Troy are at Cedar Rapids Washington (5-30, 3-21).
Waterloo West (26-11, 18-5) is the Mississippi Division champion.