Freshman third baseman, Ella Chancey, was given a starting role before her debut game even began. And ever since, she has made waves and put up some of the highest batting numbers on the softball team.
"It's unique to have a freshman come in and play every day," said Head Coach Ashley Chastain. "People think that happens all the time, but it doesn't happen all the time. A lot of players usually have time to come in and learn the game at this level and play behind someone and then take over a position. Ella was able to come in right away and earn the job."
Chancey started the season out hot with a home run in her Niner debut and has started 39 of Charlotte's 40 games this season, becoming a difference-maker for the 49ers.
Before coming to Charlotte, Chancey attended Madison County Highschool in Danielsville, Ga., which is half an hour from Atlanta, her birthplace. At Madison County, she played 3B/SS, leading the team with a batting average of .409, had 155 RBIs, 117 R, 23 HRs and .445 OBP.
In her four-year high school softball career, she collected many accolades, including four-time First Team All-Region Player, two-time Region Player of the Year, two-time Best Offensive Player and Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award.
Chancey was a star off the diamond in high school too. She played for the Varsity basketball team and took advanced classes with a 4.0 GPA.
It has been just over eight months since Chancey decided to attend Charlotte, a decision which was a big one but seems to have paid off for her and the team.
Coming from a small town in Georgia to Charlotte would be tough for anyone. Even the nearest city to her hometown, Athens, is seven times smaller in population than Charlotte.
"It's been an adjustment going from such a small town where you know everyone to a bigger place where you are new and don't know anyone," said Chancey.
Luckily for Chancey, softball has made the transition easier and brought her close to her teammates.
"What if I was just going to school here and didn't play softball? I don't know what I'd do here," said Chancey. "Having the softball side of things where you just come into a program where everyone loves each other helps a lot with the transition."
So far, Chancey has made her mark and proved to be a threat anytime she steps up to the plate. Among the Niner batters, Chancey sits second in at-bats, runs, hits, triples, home runs, total bases, SLG%, OB% and RBIs, as well as third in batting average and OPS.
She is top three in nearly every batting stat, with her only weakness being doubles and strikeouts. These stats are impressive enough for anyone but especially for a player in their freshman year.
"I do take pride in it [batting]," said Chancey. "Honestly, hitting is my favorite part of the game. Also, it's the most frustrating. But the feeling when you get a good hit, nothing compares to that. I feel like if I wanted to come in and do more work, that's where I would do it at. To be a good hitter, you can't just go out and do it; you have to put in the work to do it."
Both Chancey and Chastain feel she has gained confidence throughout the season. This has helped her become more of a leader for her teammates despite being new to the team. Her development in confidence has also led to her becoming one of the most consistent players on the team.
The girl behind the glove
Chancey is more than a star behind the plate. She brings a personality that everyone loves. This personality has earned her the starting role at third base and a spot in her teammates' and staff's hearts.
"I think her best attribute is her character; I'd have to start there," said Chastain. "We firmly believe here it starts with who you are as a person, and everything else falls in line from there. Without good character, Ella is not going to be a good teammate, she's not going to work hard, and she's not going to have the focus she's had all year long. Ella has added so much value to the program since she has gotten here."
Not only can you see growth in Chancey's play, but coaches and players have seen growth in her personality.
"Something I was surprised by Ella since getting to know her in August; Ella is very quiet. When she says something, it is very impactful since she doesn't say a lot, so when she speaks, the team knows she has something to say," said Chastain. "I've learned, over the past few months, that her sense of humor is incredible. I think that is one of the reasons people are drawn to her."
According to Chastain, she isn't the only one who loves the personality that Chancey brings to the team, which raises team morale and sets the tone for the team.
"[Chancey] sets the tone for everyone. When she walks into the locker room, walks into the training facility or walks on the field, she sets the tone for what's about to happen," said Chastain. "She is very lighthearted but is very serious about ball. That is one thing I respect about her. She is respectful, professional and is bought into everything that we've asked her to do since she got here."
Chancey continues starting for the Niners and developing her role as a player and a teammate as the end of her freshman year nears.
"This has been the best thing I could have imagined," said Chancey. "There are things this year I would like to improve on, but overall it has just been amazing. I couldn't imagine playing for a different team or being anywhere else."
Next for Chancey and the Niners
The 49ers sit 24-16 with three weeks left in the regular season, with a three-game series at Middle Tennessee up next.