COLUMBIA — The Rock Bridge softball team's entire senior class will continue pursuing softball after graduating.
Carly Levy, Sara Stafford, and Kate Rikoon all recently committed to play at the college level. Coach Joe Henderson says that reflects well on the Bruins.
"To get all three of them still wanting to play softball, and going to good colleges … it's a testament to the program, it’s a testament to those kids, and their families," he said.
Carly Levy committed to Crowder College in Neosho, near Joplin.
"I chose that one (Crowder) because I really connect with the coach, and I like the way the team played and I thought I’d be a really good fit. It would just fit me and the way I play," she said.
Sara Stafford chose to attend a junior college to ease into the higher education mindset.
"I’m going to North Central (Missouri College in Trenton) cause it just seems like a good starting out college," she said. "Like, to get you into the mode for college."
She said she agrees with Levy that chemistry with the coach and the team goes a long way to help in choosing where to go.
"I like the coach. He seems like a really nice guy and he knows what he’s talking about," Stafford said. "And I know some people on the team up there, so it should be fun."
Kate Rikoon committed to Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, the first team that started recruiting her.
She, too, stressed the importance of going to a place that you feel welcomed. Like the other two seniors, a big part of her decision was liking the coach.
"I went up and visited a couple weeks ago and, like, fell in love with the coach, and the girls, and the campus, and all of it," Rikoon said.
Both Levy and Stafford admit to having dreams of playing softball after high school, but not being sure if it would happen.
"I’ve always had a dream of playing at a higher level, but I never thought it was actually possible until this year when college coaches started talking to me and having interest in me," Levy said.
Stafford agreed, saying: "I always wanted to, but I didn’t know if I was going to be talented enough to play at that level. But I always tried my hardest to play better."
Henderson credits the girls' work ethic as the main reason for their success.
"They do preseason strength and conditioning from October all the way through the summer," he said. "Three days a week. I mean, they put in the time. If you put in the time, it makes a difference."
Levy said softball has always been in her blood.
"I’ve always enjoyed softball. Ever since I could walk," she said. "Both my parents played softball. My mom played fast pitch and both my parents played slow pitch. I’ve just always been around it and it’s always been something I really loved."
Rikoon took a slightly different path to get where she is today. She, too, had always imagined being recruited, but for basketball, not softball.
Her basketball career ended after two knee surgeries, and Henderson wasted no time in convincing her to try a new sport her sophomore year.
"He (Henderson) was just there, and he was like, 'Yeah, you should come out and play softball,' and I was like, 'Alright I’ll do it,'" she said. "So I did, and now I’m here."
She laughs at the unlikely path she took, but says things turned out for the best.
"It’s just weird, 'cause I just grew up thinking I was going to be recruited for basketball, and now I’m getting recruited for softball," she said. "So… it's really fun."
Henderson said he is impressed with the girls' drive to continue playing.
"I think it’s unusual to get 100 percent of the kids that want to play," he said. "I mean, we only had three, but whether it’s three, six, 10 … That they wanted to go on I think is a testament to the work and how much fun they have at it."
He also can't say enough about the respect he has for the three seniors.
"They just are three kids of the highest character," he said.