AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn softball is on the move, and Morgan Estell has seen the entire journey.
Estell, a redshirt senior, has been on the Plains the longest, working through injury, changes and leading the team through record-breaking moments. Through every victory, defeat and challenge, Estell has looked forward to bettering the program. Her final season is taking Auburn softball to new heights, and Estell is thrilled to be a part of it.
"There's been ups and downs throughout my career, but I can honestly say right now I've had more fun playing softball in these last two years than I've ever had in my entire life," Estell said.
Estell, a Kimberly, Alabama native, arrived to Auburn in 2010 and started for the Tigers through the 2011 season, making the All-SEC Freshman Team and carving her place as a leader on the team. Sixteen games into her sophomore season, though, Estell broke her arm, ending her season and forcing a redshirt year.
Sitting in the dugout for the rest of the season. She fell a year of experience behind her fellow recruiting class which was a struggle for Estell, who had opened the season as the best hitter on the team.
"It was hard to sit in the dugout," Estell said, "you go from starting every game to missing everything, then you feel like you're not needed because you're not actually in the game anymore."
The experience gave her a new perspective of those who do not start every game. This season, Estell -- an outfielder and first baseman -- is able to relate to and support the less-recognized members of the team. Experiencing that adversity has helped her grow more.
"I didn't see how great [my injury] was then, but I do now, I'm reaping all the rewards," Estell said. "It's really helped me be a better leader and try to help people get through how tough it actually is to be a student-athlete here."
After recovering, Estell was back to starting every game for Auburn in her redshirt sophomore season. In 2013, the ground really began to shake for Auburn softball. Estell's favorite memory of the past few years was not on the field -- it was getting the call that Auburn had hired Clint Myers as head coach.
After an incredible first season under Myers, Estell had one of her harder moments of saying goodbye to her classmates in their senior season while she played as a redshirt junior. Now having the chance to stay through coach Myers' second season, Estell has embraced her veteran status and has helped lead the team to their best start in school history and highest ranking at No. 9 in the NFCA Coaches' Poll.
Auburn is 29-2 this season, with Estell third on the team with her .433 batting average.
Estell finds herself in her senior season as part of a team not just hoping, but also expecting to compete for an SEC Championship and a trip to the Women's College World Series. They continue to rise in the rankings, and with conference play kicking off this week, the competition is just getting started.
"When I came here, I never thought that it could be like this," Estell said. "For them to come in, and us playing great, it's all a reflection of hard work and great leadership from the Myers' and [assistant coach] Scott [Woodard]."
The team knows more about the fundamentals of the game and has practiced hard enough that to Estell, the games themselves are approached as another hurdle to jump on the way to Oklahoma City, a destination that the team now expects for years to come.
"We practice every situation so much that when we go to games, it's just like another practice," she said. "When we enter a game, it's just fun, and we've been there a billion times."
Estell expects this fearless spirit and determination to lead the Tigers to compete for a national championship every year. The team has wholeheartedly embraced the "we don't play to win games, we play to win championships" mentality, and Estell is proud to be a part of it. Without her injury, she would not have been at Auburn in this historic moment, so she sees it as a blessing.
Myers's arrival has brought improvement to the program and encouragement for Estell and each player to grow as an athlete and as a leader. Being the veteran of the team, she looks to her experiences and knowledge to be available to her teammates as a leader and mentor.
With conference play beginning and the road to Oklahoma City well underway, Estell is thrilled lead the team forward in her final season.
Their destination? History.