Starring in several different areas of the field in trying to benefit the team — and showing off a strong work ethic while doing so — will win coaches over, regardless of the sport in which you’re participating.
Throughout her high school career at Minford, Zoe Doll won over her teammates and her coaches with her unselfish attitude and a dedication to winning that was apparent in her work ethic. That same opportunity attracted quite a few college coaches, and with them, opportunities to play at the next level, including at Rio Grande, where former Minford players Kelsey Conkey and Mary Pica are currently playing.
However, when Doll had time to examine her options, the senior kept coming back to one school in particular — Defiance College.
The Yellow Jackets, who have arguably made one of the biggest leaps of any NCAA Division III unit in the entire country by improving from just nine wins in 2015 to 25 in 2017, won out at the end of the day as Doll will join the purple and gold beginning with the 2019 season after signing with the program last week at Minford High School.
For Doll, the feeling is one of relief and amazement with her dreams finally realized in the form of an opportunity to play softball at the next level.
“I’ve been imagining this since I was a little girl, so to officially sign with Defiance is an amazing feeling and accomplishment,” Doll said. “I’m really looking forward to playing under the Defiance banner and playing with my future teammates, but I’m also excited for what we, as a team, can accomplish here at Minford this season. I believe that we’ll be really strong this year, and I’m excited to see what the season holds for us.”
As for Coach Preston Messer, Doll’s signing — which marks the fourth time in five seasons that a Minford softball player has advanced her career to the next level — shows that the players inside the Lady Falcons’ softball umbrella are handling their business in the right manner.
“I’m grateful for Zoe,” Messer said. “We’ve been lucky the last couple of years with Kelsey Conkey, Mary Pica and Ariel Kingery all signing, and now Zoe gets to go to Defiance. It says something about our program and the young kids that are coming out of it, especially when seniors like Zoe are signing before the season. It gives our young kids something to work hard for and look forward to.”
Over her four-year career at Minford, Doll has contributed in a heavy manner for each of the programs she has been a part of — the volleyball, girls basketball and softball programs — especially as her career has reached its upperclassman stages.
Throughout her career, Doll was absolutely huge for the Falcons, and especially this season, as a three-point specialist for Scott Caudill’s basketball program. Her ability to shoot the basketball — which forced opponents to account for herself and Marissa Risner in addition to the talented abilities Erin Daniels, Ashley Blankenship and Caitlyn Puckett brought to the table in the low post — were key in Minford obtaining a 24-2 record this past season and a 56-16 record the past three years. Doll was also key on the backline for Rachael Stapleton’s volleyball program, which made a district semifinal appearance this past fall.
But as solid and as dependable as Doll has been in each of those sports, her athletic ability is even more evident on the softball field.
In each of her first three seasons playing under Messer, Doll has obtained All-District honors in each season and has been a key component of a Minford program that has gone 39-12 during the past two years, including a 21-3 mark and a Division III District Final appearance last spring. During that time, Doll has done everything expect fill up the Gatorade cooler as the senior has pitched and played both middle infield positions, and not surprisingly, that versatility has been noted by the coaches inside what is arguably the toughest conference in the Southeast District as Doll has earned All-SOC accolades in each of her three seasons of play, as well.
“I love being a Minford Falcon. I’m just so proud of each team and what we’ve accomplished as a group. It’s a blessing to be a part of both teams and play alongside the teammates that I’ve gotten to know both on and off of the field. Minford has been very supportive throughout every sport, and especially in girls basketball,” Doll said. “We had an awesome season, and it was so wonderful where we were escorted out of the school by the fans and the fire trucks. That was very awesome. My parents have always been very supportive throughout the process as well, so we were very excited to have this amazing experience.”
Messer, however, says the pleasure of coaching Doll has been all his.
“It’s been a joy,” Messer said. “Zoe’s always had a good work ethic. She’s always happy and smiling, and she keeps the team upbeat. You’ve got to have a player like her on your team. You can’t be business all of the time. Zoe comes in, she shows up and she’s happy-go-lucky. You’ve got to have a player like that who is not only having fun, but is showing her great work ethic every day and getting things done. It’s paid off for her, and now she gets to play at the next level.”
And it’s Doll’s willingness to be coached up — at any position — that has made her such a fun player to watch. That matter, however, has been something that has been instilled in Doll since she was young by her father, Art, who serves as a pitching coach on Messer’s staff.
“My dad has actually pushed me to play every position that I can, because when you get to the next level, you’ll never know what position they’ll need,” Doll said.
“It just shows how hard of a worker Zoe truly is,” Messer said. “She dominates at pitching, then when you ask her to move to second base or shortstop, she plays those spots in a crisp manner as if she’s been playing there the whole game. She’s just one of those players where she gets it done for you when you ask her to do the job.”
As mentioned, Doll will not only be going to a school that feels like home, but will be joining a program that is clearly on the rise. Defiance finished 7-26 in 2014 and 9-25 in 2015, but under head coach Jodie Holava, the Yellow Jackets improved to 18-20 in 2016 and broke through last season with a 25-17 mark. Holava’s group already is off to another good start this year, as Defiance currently sits at 7-3 through its first 10 games of 2018.
“When I walked on the campus, I really did feel like I was at home,” Doll said. “I looked at multiple colleges, and I was very thankful for those offers as well, but honestly, Defiance was just where I felt the most comfortable at.”
And most importantly, Holava and the Yellow Jackets embrace the versatility — Doll’s calling card.
“When I got there, (Defiance head coach Jodie Holava) sat me down and said, ‘We would love to have you as a second baseman and a pitcher,’” Doll said. “They said that they’ve never seen a pitcher that can hit as well as I can, so that was very exciting to hear.”
Doll, however, should be excited — because she’s worked hard, both in the classroom and on the field of play, for the opportunity to contribute at a NCAA Division III softball program.
“When you’re coaching, and you get a kid like Zoe who is a hard worker and a good kid, it’s fulfilling,” Messer said. “It’s great to see a kid’s dream come true in front of your eyes. There’s nothing better than that. That’s what coaching all about. It’s about your players and seeing them satisfied and happy with what they’ve accomplished in life.”
And it’s an accomplishment that Doll believes couldn’t be accomplished without — in addition to her family and friends — each of her three high school coaches.
“They’re all amazing coaches,” Doll said of Caudill, Messer and Stapleton. “They have all pushed me to be the best player that I can possibly be, and I couldn’t be here without them.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT
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