MANSFIELD — The Midlothian Lady Panthers feel they are a team of destiny after they were stopped short of state title aspirations a year ago against Hewitt Midway.

They are certain to meet Midway again but not before as district foes, now that the biennial realignment has affected the Lady Panthers.

To prepare the Lady Panthers for district competition and beyond, fourth-year Midlothian head coach Jennifer McFalls has scheduled some tough tournaments.

They embarked in the Mansfield Tournament where games against Mansfield Summit, Mansfield Legacy, Dumas, South Grand Prairie and Lewisville were scheduled.

They will soon be competing in the Southlake Carroll Tournament also.

“Confidence is something I really think our girls have; their work ethic is good and they’re ready to improve on last year,” McFalls said.

She has the distinction of leading a team that has four collegiate signees, far more than in recent years.

That’s because the nucleus of seniors have grown with McFalls since these seniors were freshmen.

They include Tori Benavides (Sam Houston), Brittany Caruthers (Stephen F. Austin), Megan Curry (McClennan Junior College) and Whitney Bankston (Oklahoma Panhandle State).

Benavides has something to prove as she returns to the lineup as a pitcher. Injuries kept her away from the mound last season.

But even during an injury-plagued season, she hit .583.

The keys to a successful season will certainly revolve around Benavides.

“We need a solid performance on the mound by Benavides,” McFalls said.

Sophomore Whitney Cowley, who pitched in the 2008 playoffs against Seagoville, will get some pitching time also.

Caruthers, who plays catcher, batted .417 with 36 RBI and six homers.

It resulted in a 27-12 season. But the district was so tough that Midlothian tied for first with Waxahachie and Red Oak.

Waxahachie is still in the district, Red Oak is not.

Enter Midway, which advanced to the state tournament in 2008 but lost to eventual state champ Aledo.

The play around the plate with such hitters as Bankston (.310 avg.) and Jade Laurence (.337 avg.) will be important.

Those that hit at least a .250 batting average were Kaydee Bland, Brady Luetke.

McFalls points to a solid defense as a strength.

“We’re very strong in that regard,” McFalls said. “Offensively, we have power and speed.”