SIOUX FALLS — Bree Kotab’s title as first-year head coach of Avon’s 18-under girls’ softball team comes with a significant asterisk.

“I played with them last year,” she said.

Yes, really.

Kotab, a 19-year-old Dante native, was tabbed the head coach in April following a long playing career and was suddenly thrown into the position of coaching girls she recently played with.

“It was kind of hard right away,” Kotab said following a Saturday afternoon game at the South Dakota USA Softball State Fastpitch Tournament at Sherman Park in Sioux Falls.

“I just wanted to be out there again, playing with them,” she added. “But I love it now.”

Kotab had originally planned to coach an 18-under team in Tyndall, but that didn’t pan out.

And in short order, the Avon position became an option.

She was then tasked with guiding a team that featured six girls Kotab had previously played with.

“She was always one of the older players, and we really looked up to her,” said Shelby Mach, who graduated this spring from Bon Homme High School.

“She’s really helped us.”

And it certainly made a difference to have a new coach that the players already knew, according to Mach.

“I’ve had coaches in the past that I didn’t know, but we knew her and what she was like,” Mach said.

This was the first year in recent memory that Avon has fielded an 18-under team, according to Kotab, and for many of the players, this year was their first experience at the state tournament.

“I’m so proud of them for how they’ve played,” Kotab said.

Kotab had coached 8-10 year-old teams before, but said the jump to 18-under was a “drastic change.”

“They’ve handled it well,” Kotab said. “They’ve done a great job. Some of them had never played before, but they’ve really grown.”

Juggling Act for Madson Family

The Madson family caught a break on Saturday morning.

Instead of their daughter’s teams playing on opposite ends of the Sherman Park complex, they played on adjacent fields.

Minutes after Brooke’s 18-under game with the Vermillion Blast ended, Lexi’s 16-under game with Yankton Fury began.

It hasn’t always been that easy during summer softball tournaments, but the family has always adjusted, according to mother Kristin. Her husband, Chad, coaches the Yankton Fury squad.

“It’s been a balancing act for Chad and I,” Kristin said. “It’s hard for both of us to go to the same games, so I’ve usually traveled with Brooke.”

And yet, it comes wth the territory for the Madson sisters, who have played softball since they were five.

“It’s been a huge part of our life,” Kristin said, as she watched Lexi’s game.

It’s only been recently, though, that Lexi has returned to the field following a knee injury.

“I always want her to do amazing,” Brooke said. “I know it was hard for her not to play; it killed her.”

Even though she wasn’t playing, Lexi still enjoyed supporting her teammates, according to her sisters.

“She’s going places,” Brooke said, with a smile. “She’s a leader and a great player, and I know she loves being out there.”

In Brooke’s case, she will continue her career this fall at Mount Marty College.

“I’m definitely ready,” she said. “I’m excited to see what the coaches can teach me.”

Parkston Embraces Challenge

Age is only a number for Parkston’s 18-under softball team this summer.

Most of the players on the roster are 15 years old and will be sophomores or juniors this fall. One player is 17 years old.

In other words, Parkston was playing up at the state tournament.

“They’ve really embraced it,” head coach Daren Lindeman said Saturday afternoon. “They wanted to challenge themselves.

“It’s a confident group. They definitely get pushed, but they aren’t afraid to go for it.”

A year ago, Parkston won its 14-under division at state, but wanted to take its experience — most of the team has been together for a few years — up a few notches on the ladder, according to Lindeman.

“They just play together so well,” he said. “If they get down, they find a way to rally each other and get back.”

Viborg-Hurley Coach Stays With It

Linda Nelson is proud to proclaim something: She has been coaching softball since 1986.

Her Viborg-Hurley program won a state championship in the early 1990s and three years ago it finished third in its division at state.

And she has been coaching most of the players on this year’s 18-under team since they were five years old.

“It’s a good group of kids,” Nelson said Saturday afternoon. “They come out, play hard, have fun and respect. That’s all you can ask for.”

What’s kept her going after all these years?

“I’ve just had a lot of really good kids,” Nelson said. “And then I just kept at it because I love softball.”

Vermillion Adjusted To Obstacles

There was plenty of emotion for the Vermillion Blast after a season-ending loss Saturday morning in the 18-under B division.

And there was good reason why.

“We had a lot of ups and downs,” head coach Tagney Walters said. “We had so many girls who were so busy, so it was hard to get everyone together.”

There were other challenges along the way as well, she added.

“We kept adding girls to keep a team together,” Walters said.

The Blast boasted one player from Vermillion, and others from all over the region: the Sioux Falls area, from Dakota Valley’s former team, Yankton (Brooke Madson), Laurel, Nebraska and Sioux City, Iowa.

Two of those players will continue their softball careers in college this fall: Maddie Treiber (Morningside) and Madson (Mount Marty).

“We had the most girls we’ve had in a few years,” Walters said. “It took a while to get to know each other and really click, but they were playing well the last few weeks.”

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