The Eastman Wildcats U15 softball team finished top 6 at Nationals in Saskatoon and for one of the players, the memories off the field mean just as much as the success on it.
Dany Heppner says she's still blown away by how well her team did throughout the year and into the big tournament that saw top teams from around the country compete. "It felt so good to be there. The expectations were very high heading in, it's the top 21 teams from Canada and to finish top 6 was obviously very exciting. We had a couple of rough games but we pulled through at the end and played our game so it was just an exciting time."
"This was my favorite year by far," Heppner says when asked what it meant to have success with this particular group. "This group of girls is so special, we're all family. We're so close. We're just so close, it's been my favorite group. We played so well and we worked well together. It was just exciting to play with them."
Because of that closeness, Heppner says there were so many special moments away from the game that she'll cherish. "Off the field, it was so fun to have those memories. Like, when you have a good game, you get back to the hotel and just have fun. So many memories even from the bus ride. The moments where you're not thinking about ball, you're just being friends."
Having a strong cheering section of parents also meant the world to Heppner and her teammates. "Our parents are amazing for this team. We had so many moms and dads who are just our biggest fans. They were so loud and it just pumped us up. If we were down a run, they'd get loud and it would just bring energy to build us up."
There was one game in particular that Heppner recalls as being the highlight of the U15 team's time at Nationals and it was a dose of revenge. "Our Brandon game. Before the game started, we talked and we wanted redemption. It was really big. We were excited to be there and we were ready to play. We lost to them in the gold medal game at Provincials. We had our little talk before and asked when would you rather beat them, at Provincials or Nationals? Obviously, we went out there and wanted to beat them on this stage. We did. It was special."
Some of the team will be moving up to U17 next season but for Heppner and her teammates, they're already kind of looking two years down the road when this team will be together again. "We were talking about it on the bus home. We can't wait to be back together at U17's. It's going to be so much fun. I don't know where Nationals will be that year but we're going to be really strong, we're going to make it really far that year. I'm just really excited to be playing with them."