It's hard to make Megan Elliott angry. Even after Calvert lost in each of the previous two postseasons, the All-Met pitcher bore a smile and shrugged.
But ask Elliott whether it bothers her when she hears people say softball in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference is on the decline.
"That does," Elliott said. "Do they come out and watch our games? Do they know the potential we have?"
The notion that other counties might be playing at a higher level was bolstered the previous two seasons when the SMAC went without a title. But the league realized plenty of the potential Elliott spoke of last week with two state titles -- one when Elliott led Calvert to the Maryland 2A championship Friday and another 24 hours later when rival Huntingtown won the 3A title.
The SMAC is back where it was for more than a decade. From 1992 to 2002, the conference had 14 state champions -- at least one every season except for 1999.
But on the state's largest stage, perhaps the easiest basis for comparing teams from different regions, the SMAC had come up short. In 2003, Calvert lost to Severna Park in the 3A title game. Last season, no SMAC team advanced to a state tournament for the first time since 1988.
The whispers around the state said other areas were passing the SMAC in terms of softball supremacy.
"Just being around some coaches on several committees," said Huntingtown Coach Mike Johnson, the Region 4 representative to the Maryland State Softball Committee, "they said that it was a down time for the conference. I feel we weren't getting the respect we deserve."
There was "the need to reassert ourselves," he said. "We play the best all-around softball [in Maryland] in the SMAC."
It bothered many players and coaches in the SMAC, but it was understandable. How could you not play your best ball at the most important time of the season?
"People looked at us like we were good, as the teams that everyone was out to get," said Huntingtown senior Kelli Seger, who played at Calvert and Northern before coming to the first-year school this season. "We would be like, yeah, we know we're good, and we'd just lose" in the playoffs.
But now that the SMAC has two state champions -- for the first time since 1998 -- its other teams can take heart. This year, those that came up short in the postseason -- such as 4A East Region finalist Thomas Stone -- can point to Calvert and Huntingtown and say they could play alongside perhaps the state's top two teams. In the past, when Anne Arundel teams or schools from the northern part of the state would claim titles, it was difficult to compare SMAC teams favorably with them.
"I always tell the girls," Calvert Coach Frank Moore said, "that you're not going to see anything in the state tournament that you're not going to see in the SMAC."