Monday, May 23, 2022

Senior squad: Palmyra’s big four looking to lead in 2022

Three big wins to start the season have the Panthers primed for a promising spring

Special to South Jersey Sports Weekly: Molly Jackson, Megan Dixon, Maria Dixon and Juliana Rex (left to right) make up a strong senior core for Palmyra that has the Panthers off to a 3-0 start to the 2021-22 season.

Only four remain from the class of 2022 with the Palmyra softball team.

Having originally entered the high school halls with a larger group of classmates as freshmen three years ago, the numbers have since dwindled as the years progressed. Now, just Juliana Rex, Molly Jackson and twin sisters Maria and Megan Dixon from that group continue to play this spring. 

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The quartet have been playing together since they were little, having all first learned together how to play the sport while on the same teams together growing up. Due to this incredible amount of time spent together on the fields, the four have formed a special bond over the years. 

“I really feel like us four seniors are one big family,” Maria Dixon said. “Megan and I are the twins, but we honestly consider Molly and Juliana to be our sisters just as much as we are to each other.”

Through the team’s first three games of the season — which included double-digit wins over Medford Tech, Camden Tech and Willingboro — it’s not difficult to see that the four seniors will, as expected, play a crucial role to the team’s success this season. 

Both Maria Dixon and Jackson pitched five-inning complete games in their first respective starts, each allowing just two hits apiece. Meanwhile, the four seniors went a combined 19-for-24 at the plate through the teams first two games to start the season.

According to coach Ken Miller, it was no secret heading into the 2021-22 season that he would rely heavily on his senior leaders early and often this year.

“Our top four in those seniors have played softball together for so long now and are solid in all aspects of the game and have a great softball IQ,” Miller said. “They’ve all been so important to the program for such a long time now.” 

Outside of the four seniors, the longtime Panthers head coach said the team does lack a considerable amount of varsity experience.

For a team that’s looking to post its first positive record since the 2017-18 season, the year before the current senior class started at Palmyra, Miller said he hopes the early season success helps propel the squad to bigger and better things later in their schedule when they begin to see tougher opponents.

“Those first two wins were big because I’m hoping that will help with slowing the game down for the team as a whole moving forward and get their confidence up,” Miller said. 

The past two years have been difficult; with spring sports having not had a season two years ago, and last year’s spring season having been heavily modified, the opportunity and time for even current juniors on this year’s team to get used to the high school speed has been rare, which is something the seniors are aware of and have looked to help with early on this season.

“We’ve talked with the girls on the team, even after these first two games, that that’s not what the rest of the season is going to look like,” Megan said. “We’re going to have to really work for our wins, it’s not easy by any means, we’re going to have to fight.

“It’s been a tough past two years or so, especially for the juniors. A lot of girls come out for the team having not really played much softball growing up before getting to high school, and then it hasn’t been a normal two years by any means for them to learn to play … but I give them credit because they’ve come a long way. As a smaller school, you need every person that you can get.”

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