Mariah McKee was in a tough spot at the end of her first season as the varsity head coach of the North Callaway varsity softball team, and it wasn't because of anything she said or did.

McKee, in fact, did everything asked of her and then some. Worked hard. Earned respect. Kept things fun. But, while the Ladybirds did play for the Class 2, District 8 championship against Father Tolton on Oct. 13 at South Callaway, when her squad ended up being forced to look from the outside in at a 1-0 decision, that meant Eastern Missouri Conference rival Montgomery County was moving on and they weren't.

It also meant former North Callaway coach Brandi Thomsen and her new team, Class 3 Oak Grove, was still alive and that's how they'd stay until eventually finishing as the state runners up. McKee doesn't worry about being overshadowed, though, and instead chooses to focus on the positive and facts like the Ladybirds had a record of 14-13 overall in 2018.

"The team this year performed great," McKee said. "We had a tough schedule, but in the long run it helped make up better."

Next up for the North Callaway softball program is dealing with the annual cycle of player turnover created by graduation. That's going to mean the exit of some older players, the promotion of some veteran athletes and the introduction of some brand new talent.

"(We are) Graduating four seniors. These individuals have helped shape the ones behind them," said McKee. "They have shown what it takes to be a great athlete and student athlete. You don't really replace them, you just mold the next ones you have and try and pull the greatness out of them."