Rebel seniors leave large imprint on program

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, May 1, 2013



Riverside’s five senior softball players may not be leaving their school with the state championship victory that they dreamed of.  But they’ll leave a memorable, undeniable legacy behind.

Destin Vicknair, Taylor Terrio, Katie Bailey, Kori Bourgeois and Megan Stein have been synonymous with a Rebels program that made a habit of winning games – and plenty of them – over the past five years. Terrio became a starter in her seventh grade year; Bailey, Bourgeois and Vicknair their 8th grade years and Stein in her freshman year.

In the last four years, the Rebels have finished in the state quarterfinals, the state semifinals twice and, finally, the state championship game.  Riverside went 103-31-1 over that span, winning a whopping 77 percent of their games.

For Hebert, she’s penciled these names into her lineup for the better part of the last 160-plus games at Riverside. The finality of it all was not lost on her during the weekend in Sulphur.

“The whole weekend was emotional,” she said. “I wanted it so badly for them. They’ve gotten closer and closer each year and had been working so hard, putting so much effort into this. Our seniors stepped up as true leaders this year … I wanted it for them and their teammates wanted it for them.”

The dramatic 3-2 loss to John Curtis was, in some ways, a sudden and shocking end. For one weekend, Riverside seemed primed to overcome all of its demons from past seasons – the Rebels defeated Evangel in the semifinals, a team that had eliminated Riverside in 2010 and 2011. The Rebels had fought back to tie Curtis after a home run – a walk off shot knocked Riverside out of the state playoffs in 2009 – off the bat of Rachel Brockhaus, who delivered the game-winning hit a year ago in Curtis’ semifinal win over Riverside.

This group overcame it all this season to stand tied with their archrival, 2-2 in the seventh inning. But the Patriots’ Katie Brignac delivered a walkoff  RBI single – the championship wasn’t to be.

“The excitement and enjoyment of getting there was incredible for everyone. I just wanted them to be able to finish it the right way,” said Hebert. “The end result wasn’t what we wanted. But when you look at the way these girls just fought and kept pushing … you could see it in their faces.

“They left everything on the field that night. They believed in themselves. They’ve got everything to be proud of.”

To start as a young player at a program like Riverside, which has stood as one of the state’s more successful ones for quite some time, one has to display some special qualities; that goes double when starting for a coach like Hebert, who has won multiple championships of her own as an athlete and a coach.

They each made the kind of impression early on that was needed to get on the field.

“Back then, what stuck out was that their work ethic was unbelievable,” said Hebert. “And just as important was they each had a really, really strong knowledge of the game. That’s a big thing … you might have someone who’s a better pure athlete that doesn’t understand what they’re doing out there. These girls had such a grasp on it.”

Terrio was the first to break into the lineup, earning a spot in centerfield as only a seventh grader. One of the school’s best all-around athletes, she never took a season off – she became an accomplished volleyball, soccer and track and field star.

But softball was where she truly shined brightest. She evolved into one of the top defensive centerfielders to ever play for the Rebels. As a hitter, she moved into the leadoff spot as an 8th grader.

And as a senior, she went out, perhaps, on her finest weekend of play: Terrio went 8 for 9 in Sulphur, not recording a single out until her final at-bat, a seventh-inning championship game line drive that may have been her hardest hit ball of the entire weekend – she ripped it right into the glove of Curtis third baseman Rebecca Dill, in a way almost getting herself out in a tournament where no one else could.

“The way she showed up at state showed just how badly she wanted it,” said Hebert. “For six years, you never had to worry about centerfield. She’s one of those unbelievable athletes that you don’t see very often … I think the way she played (in Sulphur), she put out a message to our younger girls. They could see her desire.”

Vicknair, Bourgeois and Bailey each broke in as eighth graders.

All Vicknair has done is won the most career games at Riverside as a starting pitcher while simultaneously serving as the team’s most intimidating and powerful hitter.

She struck out 24 batters and allowed three total hits in the team’s wins over DeQuincy and Evangel in Sulphur before engaging in a true pitcher’s duel with Brignac in the state championship.

“She’s probably pitched all but maybe 10 varsity games over the past few years for us,” said Hebert. “She’s such a competitor and she wants the ball in big spots. We’re going to have such a huge hole to fill with her.”

Bailey’s been her battery mate for almost the entire duration of that span. The catcher has been a consistent presence in the heart of the Rebels order, hitting anywhere from third to fifth over the past five years and serving as one of Riverside’s most dangerous run producers.

A wrist injury sidelined Bailey late in her senior season, and upon her return she shifted over to designated hitter, pushing through pain to finish the season strong.

“Katie’s bat has always been strong for us,” said Hebert. “The injury was unfortunate, especially its timing. We wanted her to concentrate on getting back to hitting as well as she can after the injury … she did nothing wrong behind the plate, it was just circumstances.

“You could see even in the semifinals and championship, she was still hurting. Flexing the hand, shaking it off. But she still went up and battled through it. She showed a lot of leadership.”

Bourgeois, meanwhile, had to fight through the shock of some awful preseason news: a shoulder injury she suffered during soccer season – Bourgeois was the goalkeeper on Riverside’s district champion soccer squad – was said to be season ending. She was going to have to sit out her senior season.

But although the third baseman wouldn’t be able to make the throws needed to man her usual position, she was determined to contribute in any way that she could – while eventual surgery would be needed, it was determined she’d be able to play in spots, for as long as she could manage the pain. During the season, Bourgeois served as a designated hitter at times, a pinch hitter and pinch runner. Late in the season, she manned first base in a pair of district games.

“Kori could have easily folded. By midseason, she couldn’t swing the bat anymore due to the injury,” said Hebert. “Instead, she showed up every day at practice, helped shag balls, took time to help her teammates … It’s hard to not be able to play, especially when you’re a senior. She didn’t have a negative attitude about it. It takes a big person to lead like she did this year.”

Stein broke into the lineup as a freshman. She was primarily Riverside’s starter at second base this season. But Stein’s true value to the team came from her versatility – Stein can play a multitude of defensive positions, and Hebert asked her to do just that over the past four seasons.

“Megan’s played wherever we’ve needed her. We’ve put her in the outfield, at first base, at second,” said Hebert. “Megan wasn’t your superstar player, but she was one you knew you could count on to come to work every day and to do whatever was needed to help us reach our goals.

“I knew I could tell her on a given day to play a different position, or that we needed her to play a different role. She accepted it for the team, because she believed in me as much as I believed in her. Megan didn’t care about getting the attention, she just wanted to win.”

Those five seniors will graduate this summer and move on with their lives. But Hebert said their impact on the program will be lasting.

“They raised expectations here,” said Hebert.

“Riverside has always been a quality softball program. But those girls helped lift it to another level, to where people now expect nothing less than reaching that state championship game.”

The veteran coach says she’ll miss them – both on the field and off.

“I get emotional, the more I talk about them,” said Hebert, slightly choked up. “They meant a lot to the program, but they meant a lot just to me, personally. They’re like daughters to me.

“These girls are like family. It’s hard to watch family move on.”