The Milford softball team is ready to hit the field in the extremely competitive Henlopen Conference.

As defending champs last season, the Lady Bucs rallied late to make the playoffs. After a 2-0 start, the Lady Bucs dropped seven of their next eight games, to 3-7 on the season with eight games remaining. With no room for error, Milford ended winning six of their last eight games to finish 9-9 and qualify for the state tournament.

They lost in the opening round to Caravel Academy.

Now, the Lady Bucs will return nine players, but will be without several key pieces. Returning players include seniors Megan Davenport, Courtney Kohel, Morgan Petty, Khya Reynolds, juniors Madison Lynch, Macey Myers, Emily Sickles and sophomores Haleigh Baker and Alexa Wagenhoffer.

Milford lost three graduates, starting pitcher Morgan Abbott, Darby Brennan at second base and outfielder Kalysia Reynolds. Each was a big contributor in their years with the program and all three played roles in the Lady Bucs’ championship run two seasons ago.

“It has truly been an honor to be Darby’s coach these last three seasons, but it has been a greater honor being her Dad and watching her grow into an inspiring young lady,” said Milford head coach Sean Brennan. “She’s a leader on and off the field and in the classroom. Her spiritual leadership has inspired us all to want to be a better coach, teammate and person.

“Morgan delivered for this team consistently in some of the biggest moments over the past two seasons, she earned the respect of her peers, teammates, coaches and administrators, and other coaches from around the state.”

Kohel, named third-team All-Conference last season, is one of the team’s many returnees, solidifying things at catcher.

“Courtney is the anchor our team,” Brennan said. “Her grit and desire to win are second to none. Courtney’s play behind the plate has kept us in so many games these past three seasons, that without her I’m not sure where would be.

“She is a leader on our team and in our school. There is no one else in this state I would ever want behind the dish for this team.”

The journey for Milford begins on the road with two away games. They’ll take on Middletown Friday at 3:45 p.m. before traveling to Caesar Rodney March 26, Tuesday, at 4:15 p.m.

The home opener is Thursday, March 28 against Delaware Military Academy at 4:15 p.m.