Stevens: UNM Softball's Band Of Sisters Will Say Goodbye To Seven

May 8, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Softball - Mountain West Series -- at Lobo Field

Who: Lobos vs. Colorado State
When: 6 p.m., Thursday; 6 p.m., Friday; 1 p.m., Saturday

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

It isn't simply a farewell to seven Lobos on Senior Day Saturday at Lobo Field.

The Lobos also will lose a mother figure, a couple of jokesters, a gutsy warrior, an emotional leader, the quiet big sister type, and an intense presence on the mound.

For sure, it's been a roller coaster ride for these seven Lobos: Kaela DeBroeck, Sheryl Guillermo, Kari Gutierrez, Kaity Ingram, Cassandra Kalapsa and Amber Tracy, along with redshirt junior Jordyn Bledsoe.

Bledsoe is a UNM warrior and surely would return for her senior year, if her knees would allow it. They won't. Bledsoe is stepping away from the softball field after tearing an ACL for the fourth time in her UNM career.

"It couldn't have been with a better group," Bledsoe said of her time as a Lobo. "Everyone is so upbeat and always laughing. It's (the ups and downs) made us grow into the people we are. It's been an experience, but I wouldn't change it."

The Lobos of 2013 haven't exactly punched out a memorable season, but watching all these Lobos on and off the field has made the season special. These Lobos play hard. They play with passion and purpose.

These Lobos make you understand why D-I athletes sacrifice so much to pursue their sports.

"It's fun," said Kari Gutierrez, one of the emotional leaders on the team. "I feel like it's made me a better person. The bond between all those girls, I feel like it beats any great game (as a lasting memory)."

Most athletes can look back on certain accomplishments in their sport with fondness or a sense of achievement. These Lobos pushed New Mexico softball into the Top 25 in 2012 and have posted dramatic wins over Top 25 teams.

But often what athletes miss is the camaraderie and the bonding that comes with the sharing of good times and bad times - the bonding that comes with working hard to achieve shared goals.

"I think it brought us closer together," said Amber Tracy, a stable, big-sister type, looking back at the UNM ups and downs over the past four years. "We became like a band of sisters going through everything together.

"(Because of) the overall experience, we know what each other is going through and it's easy to communicate with one another. We've all been through the same thing."

You can't be successful in life or in softball or in anything if you don't' pay attention to the little things, not the big glory you get at the end of the game. All the little things that it took to get you there are really what's important."
Lobo Senior Sheryl Guillermo

The seniors that came into the program four years ago were recruited to New Mexico by Ty Singleton. They struggled through an 11-37 season in Singleton's final year, a trying trek that saw the 2010 Lobos go 1-14 in the Mountain West.

"We've been through a lot together," said Cassandra Kalapsa, a four-year letterwinner who leads the team with eight home runs. "We went through the coaching changes together. We've been through a bunch of trials and tribulations."

There are some obvious things that have helped these Lobos through some hard times and through a coaching change and one of those things has been playing a game that made them happy. Of course, there are always a couple of Lobos who are better than others in producing smiles.

"I think the thing that makes this class so close together is the sense of humor," said Kaity Ingram, the Lobo many of her teammates call the "mom" figure.

"Even in bad situations, everyone kind of turns it into something funny and we're able to laugh at ourselves and look back at all the stories and kind of laugh at them instead of everything being so serious all the time."

Said Bledsoe: "Cassie (Kalapsa) and Sheryl (Guillermo) are definitely the jokesters, more like pranksters than anything. There is always something going on with them. I've never had teammates quite like them."

Ingram came to UNM as a transfer and is in her second year as a Lobo. The other five seniors -- Guillermo, Gutierrez, Kalapsa, DeBroeck and Tracy - will notch their fourth varsity letters as Lobos.

"To think about it coming to an end isn't real yet," said Guillermo. "I don't' know when it's going to hit me. It's so weird thinking after this (weekend) it's going to be over. It's not real for me now, not at all."

It will be real on Saturday - the final game of the season and the final game in a three-game Mountain West battle with Colorado State. The Rams swept the Lobos in 2012 and could pull into a tie for second place on the Mountain with another sweep of the Lobos.

New Mexico is looking for a splash of revenge and a hoping to put a feel-good ending on the 2013 season.

Senior Kaela DeBroeck, an intensely competitive Lobo, will see a lot of mound time vs. CSU. "It's been a great time, a great journey," DeBroeck said of her four years as a Lobo.

For sure, there will be some tears shed on Saturday. That's the way it is when you say goodbye to teammates and friends.

"These people are always going to be in your life, said Ingram.

Said Guillermo: "They are all like 19 sisters to me."