May 11, 2019 - by
Culture Carries Noles To Sixth Straight ACC Title

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – By her own admission, Lonni Alameda doesn’t care too much about trophies. Or awards or records.

Which hasn’t stopped her from building an impressive collection of each.

The latest hardware, earned here on Saturday afternoon, is for the 2019 ACC tournament championship, which marked Florida State’s six consecutive league crown.

Alameda’s Seminoles earned it by virtue of an 8-0, run-rule victory over North Carolina in the tournament’s title game. And, after a three-game stretch in which it outscored its opponents 16-0, Florida State seems to be in a near-perfect position to defend its 2018 national championship in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

So while the Seminoles are happy to pose with the ACC championship trophy, and will no doubt make room for it in their crowded display case, they also don’t intend to spend much time in awe of it.

“I don’t hang my hat on any of those things,” Alameda said. “I hang my hat on the kids and the growth and the way that they play this time of year.”

By that standard, perhaps the Seminoles should add a hat rack to their trophy case.

Because what happened at JoAnne Graf Field this weekend can only be considered an extension of what Alameda’s program has built over the last few years: late-season excellence.

The centerpiece of all that, at least for a few more weeks, is the Seminoles’ run to the 2018 Women’s College World Series championship.

But don’t discount those six straight league titles, a feat which matches FSU’s own league record set in the 1990s.

And don’t forget that three of the last five seasons have ended in Oklahoma City. And that the Seminoles have reached at least the NCAA Super Regionals in every year since 2013.

“To me, when you see that we’re in championship games, and we’re playing in (the postseason), I’m just really proud of how the team is taking care of itself to put the best performance on the field.

“You want to go out there and be comfortable being in those moments, regardless of the outcome.”

The Seminoles were plenty comfortable in big spots this weekend, and Alameda believes that did impact the outcome.

There’s no argument that the Seminoles have been the class of ACC softball for a long time, and often by a wide margin.

But the league is getting better.

Just look at the way Louisville took two of three from the Seminoles earlier this year, dealing FSU its first ACC series loss since 2012 in the process.

A week later, UNC did the same.

For that matter, Florida State, despite its No. 5 national ranking and despite playing on its home field, entered the ACC tournament as the field’s No. 2 seed – behind Virginia Tech by virtue of the Hokies’ better conference record.

“Exactly what we had wanted for the ACC since we’ve been here is to continue to grow it and be competitive,” Alameda said. “And we’re getting it. Coming into this, it could’ve been anyone’s game, anyone’s tournament.”

But it was Florida State’s, thanks in large part to the familiar faces who have played such a huge part of FSU’s success over the last few seasons.

King was simply dominant in the circle and earned tournament MVP honors for her efforts.

Catcher Anna Shelnutt showed that the “Postseason Anna” moniker she picked up last year was no fluke, throwing out two would-be base-stealers on Saturday while also launching her second home run of the weekend.

And two other veterans, Dani Morgan and Sydney Sherill, made the all-tournament team after their performances throughout the weekend.

Playing in front of a raucous home crowd – one ACC official said it was the best ever for an ACC softball tournament – helped, too.

“It’s just incredible,” King said. “Especially being in front of your home crowd and feeling their energy every single pitch.”

Added Cali Harrod: “Our home crowd was amazing. Our fans are always so awesome. But to be able to play the tournament in front of them and know that they’re in our back pocket like that … it was so cool to be able to do that in front of them.”

A trophy may just be a trophy, but don’t think for a moment that Alameda wasn’t moved by what took place over the weekend.

In a moment of candor, she admitted that this year’s team has often been a mystery as it transitions from the title-winners of last year into a new, independent identity.

“We won a national championship, and then nobody knew what we would do this year,” she said. “I didn’t know what we would do. I’d never won a national championship. I didn’t know what it would be like. And it’s been emotional. And there are expectations. As much as we try not to feel them and talk about them.”

It would be enough to keep another coach awake at night.

Alameda, however, could rest easy, knowing that the program that she wants – that she’s built – has been in place for several years now.

Which means that, sooner or later, the team will come together. And when the calendar flips to May, the Seminoles are a good bet to be playing their best softball of the season.

“I think our team has really taken pride in that,” Alameda said. “I think I’m more proud of that part of it – that for a six years straight now we’ve been in a comfort zone, being in this tournament and being in the postseason.”

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