With the cancellation of the spring season for high school sports, the Napa Valley Register will recognize senior athletes over the next few months who have had their careers come to a premature end due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Today we focus on Calistoga High softball player Laila Elkeshen.
Her last two high school softball seasons were cut short, but Elkeshen found success on the hardwood.
She was a key member of the historically great Wildcats volleyball and girls basketball teams that made deep playoff runs over the past several years.
Sports: Volleyball, basketball and softball.
Years on varsity: For both basketball and softball, I spent all four years on varsity and for volleyball I was on JV for two years and then varsity for two years.
Fun fact: I am very superstitious when it comes to sports. Before games, especially basketball, I would have all these little silly things that I felt like I needed to do in order to feel like the team and I were going to play well. If I ever forgot to do something, I would have to go back and do it in order for myself to feel ready to play.
By the numbers: In basketball, I was named Most Improved Player in basketball as a sophomore, was an all-league honorable mention as a junior and a second-team all-league player as a senior.
In volleyball, I was a first-team all-league selection and County Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
In softball, I received a Golden Glove award as a freshman and was an all-league honorable mention as a sophomore.
What was your reaction to the spring season being canceled?
I was very upset when I found out that our softball season got canceled. Being a senior and knowing that this was the last sports season of my high school career, I really wanted to enjoy it.
Not getting that opportunity was really heartbreaking for me.
Also, last year our softball season also got cut short because we didn’t have enough people for a full team.
That was why I was so excited for this year, because we had lots of girls come out to play and we were able to play one home game. We won by about 10 runs, which was great considering it was lots of girls’ first time playing.
What had you hoped to accomplish in your sport this spring?
Being with a fairly new team I hoped to have been able to win a majority of our games as I saw so much improvement in my team from our first practice compared to how we played as a team during our one game.
Because of this I felt like we were really growing and we could have really gone far if we were able to continue playing.
I also just hoped to improve as a player myself. I fell in love with softball at a young age and began playing in fifth grade and haven’t stopped.
And since last season only lasted a few games, I was very excited to be back out on the field this spring so that I could grow as a player.
How has coronavirus changed your life?
Coronavirus has changed my life a lot. It has been hard adjusting to online classes just because I enjoy learning in a classroom setting so much more. Just not being able to see my friends every day at school has also been a big change. Being a senior, I was really looking forward to these last three months of high school with all the events we had planned, so with those now being cancelled it really is disappointing that I won’t have those experiences with my class.
However, I know these are hard times for many people so I am just grateful that I am healthy and able to spend this time with my family and pets before I go off to college next fall.
Have you picked up any new hobbies during quarantine?
I have done lots of cooking and baking, which has been fun. I have always enjoyed doing that and also I find it very relaxing. I also have been doing lots of things around the house that I was putting off since I was so busy with school and sports, like reorganizing my whole room as well as painting and drawing.
Best memory from high school sports?
I have had so many amazing memories from my sports career. But if I had to choose one, I would have to pick our home championship volleyball game for the North Coast Section title. It was a big accomplishment for us to even get as far as we did in the playoffs, so we went into the championship game ready to just give it our all and play our best game.
I will never forget looking into the crowd as we first came out of the locker room before the game and seeing the stands all filled up with friends, family and members of our community who came to cheer us on. Winning that game is a memory that I will never forget. We were able to make history for our school and I was able to do it with a group of my closest friends.
What you miss most about sports?
I will miss the rush of competing, for sure, and just that feeling of excitement when I get on the court or field and when we would make a great play or win a close game. I will also, of course, miss my team. We are all so close, so getting to play with them and make history together on multiple occasions is something that I will truly miss.
This summer I hope to get prepared to go off to college in the fall. I also just want to enjoy my last high school summer with all my family and friends. I work at our local community pool as a lifeguard so if we are able to open back up and start working again soon I am definitely looking forward to that since a lot of my friends also work there. It’s always a fun time.
I am planning to attend a four-year university in the fall, so I am nervous but also very excited for this next phase in my life.
Coach Melissa Davis says
Laila is a scholarly athlete. She was so enjoyable to coach. Her malleable persona is every coach’s dream. She takes advice and uses it to the fullest. Her first baseman skills are going to be missed tremendously. She was our team’s safety net and made more outs than I can even count. Her batting skills grew over the past four years and always offered a solid option at the plate. She was and will remain an outstanding role model to younger players on and off the field.
There isn’t a doubt in my mind that she will excel in college and life and I truly hope she continues to play softball for fun and or competitively.
Senior Spotlight: A celebration of Napa County student athletes
With the cancellation of the spring season for high school sports, the Napa Valley Register is recognizing senior athletes who have had their careers come to a premature end due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sarah Husted, the focus of today's Senior Spotlight, was a defensive specialist at shortstop for the Vintage softball team.
American Canyon baseball standout James Larson had his lengthy varsity career cut short this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said he'll continue his playing career at Solano Community College next year.
St. Helena sprinter Ryan Searl, the school record holder in the 100-meter dash and focus of today's Senior Spotlight, had his sights set on competing at the state track and field meet this spring.
During his prep career, Calistoga's Jesus Rojas-Mendoza never came across a sport he couldn't master. The multi-time all-league and all-county athlete is the focus of the most recent Senior Spotlight.
Today's Senior Spotlight is on Justin-Siena baseball standout Nolan Dunkle, who felt the Braves could have won a title this spring.
Another installment of our Senior Spotlight, featuring seniors whose spring sports were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Napa High track and field standout Kyle Jezycki, the next focus of the Register's Senior Spotlight project, had aspirations of going to the state meet or breaking a school record.
The Napa Valley Register begins recognizing senior spring athletes in the first installment of the Senior Spotlight project.
Contact Gus via phone at 707-304-9372 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JustGusMorris.
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