Dominique Godoy thought her softball days were done.
The Merced College catcher had just undergone her third knee surgery in four years to remove a cyst, and the doctors recommended she give up the game she loved.
A tearful Godoy called her head coach for advice.
"Dom got some devastating news over the summer," She-Devils head coach Suzanne McGhee said. "I told her if she wanted to still give it a try, changing her diet and increasing her exercise were going to be key.
"If it didn't work, then at least she tried. But I was pretty sure losing some weight would ease the strain on her knees."
With nothing to lose, Godoy dedicated herself to a healthier lifestyle. The results have been better than Godoy hoped for, playing almost pain-free softball for the first time since she was a freshman in high school.
"I've improved my eating, lost some weight, and you can feel the difference," Godoy said. "I had a little emotional breakdown over the summer after talking to my doctors, but I wasn't ready to give up the game."
The perseverance and heart displayed by Godoy is something McGhee is using as a rallying cry heading into her fifth season as head coach.
It's been on rare display at She-Devil Diamond since McGhee took over the team's reigns, but she's optimistic she's pieced together a roster that's going to change all that.
"We've still got a lot of young blood out on the field, but this group is much more knowledgeable about softball," McGhee said. "It's tough to recruit kids when you don't have heart, and when the groups you have are more interested in socializing than competing on the field.
"I really think this is the one that starts getting things turned back around."
Jae Bondi, Louisiana Brasil, Ashlee Penrod and Godoy all return from last year's 12-23-1 team. Former Los Banos second baseman Taylor Snowden transfers back after a year at San Joaquin Delta.
Freshmen make up the rest of the group, led by Gabriella Espinosa (Atwater) and Chelsea DeLeon (Orestimba), who will handle most of the time in the circle. McGhee said Mari Valdes (Atwater) has made a smooth transition from shortstop to center field, solidifying the MC defense.
With Godoy's big bat no longer hindered by an aching knee, and Bondi, Espinosa and former Mariposa slugger Riyn Williams hitting in the lineup around her, McGhee is expecting plenty of production at the plate this year.
She'll know soon enough as MC opens its season on the road today with a doubleheader at Super Regional qualifier San Mateo.
"We've got a better group of athletes with more softball sense," McGhee said. "The pitching has looked really solid and I know we have some kids who can hit. There's still a lot of work to do, but I'm not having to get bogged down from reteaching basic things.
"I'm having fun again, and I think the girls will, too."