For the first time since 2013, there was no Gretna green and gold splashed in a dugout at the state tournament.
The Dragons finished 2020 at 15-16 and had their season ended by a Papillion-La Vista team in the midst of the greatest softball run in state history.
"Last year really, really bothered them, and I think it still does," Gretna coach Bill Heard said. "They really care about high school softball."
The Dragons have a new fire in 2021, and it reached its highest point to date Monday night at UNO's Maverick Park.
Two freshmen pitchers put the team in a great position for victory, and a deep lineup did its part as Class A No. 2 Gretna beat No. 7 Millard South 7-4 in the Metro Tournament semifinals and No. 9 Papillion-La Vista 7-0 in the championship.
It was Gretna's first Metro Tournament title, though the Dragons haven't been in the conference long. They joined in 2019 as the school transitioned to Class A.
"It's a big deal for our kids for sure," Heard said. "We got to the finals in '19. For some of our kids, they were on that team and it was a big deal to get back."
Gretna has one of the most experienced lineups in the state. Creighton recruit Ensley Frame is the lead-off hitter, and infielders Faith Mills and Kalee Higdon and catcher Jenna Marshall are three-year starters.
Mills had a three-run blast that helped turn Monday's final against the Monarchs to the Dragons' favor.
The biggest difference this year is pitching, and the Dragons have multiple arms to turn to, a nice blueprint to have for weekend tournaments, and even bigger, state.
Alexis Jensen and Allison McGee are only freshmen, but they are pitching in big moments. Each started a game Monday. They're teaming with senior Morgan Secora to keep runs off the board.
In fact, all three pitched in the semifinal win against Millard South, and Secora closed the door in the final.
Their physical traits are a big part of Gretna's 17-2 start, but it's their unselfishness that has the Dragons charging forward.
"That's about 90% of it," Heard said. "They're about what's best for the group and not themselves."
Monday's celebration was sweet, but short. Less than 24 hours later Gretna played No. 6 Millard West, and the week continues with a rematch against Millard South on Thursday and the Papillion-La Vista Invitational, loaded with rated teams, on Friday and Saturday.
The Metro title is another feather in the cap of a program with a lot softball pride and hardware. More so, the Dragons want to have a green and gold presence in Hastings in October.
Around the bases
* Dragon magic continued Tuesday. Emma Schweigart broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth inning to lift Gretna to a 1-0 win against Millard West. Jensen, who started, teamed with Secora and McGee to keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard.
* Late theatrics lifted Class B No. 3 Bennington, too. The Badgers, coming off an EMC Tournament title run, trailed Waverly 5-3 in the sixth inning Tuesday before scoring five runs en route to an 8-5 win.
Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or email@example.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.