The CMR softball team fell short of a repeat last season when they ran into crosstown rivals Great Falls High at the state tournament. The eventual champions knocked them into the losers bracket where they never recovered. But the Rustlers say they are refocused for this year
"I don't think we're looking at a specific team. Just what can we do each day to get better," says CMR head coach Lindsey Graham. "I mean it's nice for Great Falls to have two competitive teams. Every day you look over and they're practicing and you always want to keep working hard. They're always on our mind but we're focusing on us primarily."
On the minds of each of the players is former Rustler Samantha Sipes, who passed away in a tragic car accident in March. The six seniors on the team played with her when they were all freshman and they will carry her memory into the upcoming season.
"We really want to play for her," says CMR Senior Outfielder Madi Mahoney. "That's kind of been the theme during all the sporting events. Play for Sam. We really want to do that this year and make her proud."
To honor Sipes the team will wear practice jerseys with "SS" printed on the back. But that's not the only way the plan pay tribute to her.
We're going to honor her throughout the season by wearing purple shoe laces on our senior night," says Senior Shortstop Kylie Otis. "She reminds us to make every day worth it."
"She's on our mind all the time," says Coach Graham. "We have our shirts that say Samantha Sipes. The girls.....everyone took it hard. She's such a great kid and she's the type of kid that would come every day to every open gym and work her butt off. And she's just a good team player and we're going to miss her."
The hope is, in the memory of Samantha Sipes, the Rustlers will win their second state title in the last three years.