When Rachel Barril made the Juneau-Douglas High School varsity softball squad as a freshman, it was her skills on the field that did the talking.
As for her voice, Barril, now a senior for the Crimson Bears, stayed mum.
"When I first got here, I didn't think I'd make it on varsity," she said. "And when I made varsity, I was so afraid of talking, (especially) in front of seniors. ...
"When I was a freshman, I was a follower. Now, as a senior, a lot of (younger players) look up to me. That's kind of intimidating, because I'm not used to being in that position."
But Barril, with more varsity experience than anyone else on the team, has grown into the leadership role.
"She's become more of a vocal leader," Juneau coach Dave Massey said. "When she was a freshman, it was virtually impossible to get a word out of her. And she's not the loudest person now. But she's tough and comes prepared to play - and that's the best example you can give to younger players."
Barril, an outfielder/third baseman, is one of two Juneau seniors - outfielder/second baseman Ashley Troutt is the other - who will play at Melvin Park this weekend in the final home games of their high school careers.
The Crimson Bears (14-4 overall, 12-1 Region V) host the Sitka Wolves (12-4 overall, 8-4 Region V) tonight and Saturday in the last games of the regular season. Both teams have qualified for the state tournament next month in Fairbanks.
Varsity games are at 7 p.m. tonight, and at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday. Junior varsity games will be held at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. today, and at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday - also at Melvin Park.
Juneau's two seniors have followed very different paths to reach this point.
While Barril has been on varsity for four years - including 2002's state championship team - Troutt is in her first season with the Crimson Bears, though she is a veteran of the Midnight Suns club program.
Where Barril tends to be a quiet leader, Troutt is very vocal - encouraging her teammates when she's on the field, and cheering them on from the bench.
"She's always up, whether she's in the game or not," Massey said of Troutt. "I couldn't ask for a better attitude from a player on the team. When she's playing, she's playing hard. When she's not playing, she's rooting hard."
"I make people laugh," Troutt said. "I'm able to joke around with them, motivate people when they're down and let people know when they're doing good."
Troutt said she has no regrets about coming out for the team this year - other than missing out on the previous three seasons.
"I have more trust in this team than any other," she said. "I trust that they're going to do their jobs, and I'm going to do my job. ...
"When we're out there, we can laugh and smile, and when something bad happens, we can let each other know it's going to be all right.
The Crimson Bears are likely to get a spirited challenge from the Wolves. Sitka made its first-ever state tournament trip last season, and the Wolves nabbed one of three games against the Crimson Bears in Sitka last month.
"It's always good to have good competition," Massey said. "Having another good team in Southeast - it's nothing but a plus, as far as I'm concerned."
"It gives us something to work against, to help us get better and work on our mistakes," said Barril, whose younger sister, Hannah, also plays for the Crimson Bears. "We get better by playing better teams."
But the Crimson Bears will be looking to end the regular season - and the seniors' home careers - on a winning note.
"Softball has been a big part of my life," Barril said. "I'm excited (about this weekend), but kind of sad that it's almost over. I'm going to miss playing here with all these people I've been playing with most of my life."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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