Team Illusion, a 14-under team selected to represent Mission Viejo Girls Softball, has a chance to win a national crown at the USA Softball Western National Championships. The prestigious event is currently being held through Aug. 6 in Roseville.
Mission Viejo Girls Softball has only had seven teams out of all the combined age divisions compete for a national title since the program was formed in 2004.
“That’s the highest level of competition that you can get,” Illusion manager Kraig Kobayashi said of nationals. “It’s a very high prestige for the league and for the girls. We’re really excited.”
The team brings not just natural talent and skill, but chemistry.
“That’s probably the most important aspect in team sports,” Kobayashi said. “They like each other. They are willing to watch each other’s back, to play for each other, and to have a good time together.”
Illusion’s road to the national crown began at the district championship, where the team finished fourth. Illusion then went on to finish 13th at the state championships, held in Lancaster.
The stakes couldn’t have been higher—or hotter—during the state competition, as temperatures swelled to 110 degrees. Tournament officials had to move the 2 p.m. game slot to as late as 9:15 p.m. Still, Illusion often found itself playing games at the noon slot in peak sun and learned to handle adversity.
A 9-8 elimination-game loss against Hart (Santa Clarita Valley) was a turning point for the team. Both teams rallied back and forth.
“The girls did not give up,” Kobayashi said. “It really showed that it didn’t bother them, that teams can get a lead on you and you can still fight back and hit the ball well and come back. They know now there are going to be games like that that are going to be really tough games.”
“It really built their character,” Kobayashi. “They realized they could play with anyone and not be afraid.”
That type of confidence will be critical at nationals, where Illusion will face top talent around the country, including elite teams from California and Oregon.
But Kobayashi and his staff have one message for the squad as they head to nationals:
“Enjoy the experience and all the things that go with it,” he said, “and show what you have. They can play with anybody….