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GAINESVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) – For the first time since a deadly bus crash some college athletes are competing back on the field. Four North Central Texas College softball players died last fall when a semi hit their team bus. Friday they had their season opener and a double header at that.
The players were off limits to the media Friday so they could concentrate on the game, and that concentration paid off. After losing the first game 7-8, the Lady Lions dominated game two, winning 11-2 and actually forcing the game to end in the fifth inning because they were ahead by at least eight runs.
It isn’t easy to fill the stands on a Friday afternoon for a last minute game scheduled to avoid Saturday’s rain, but this team’s friends and family came from across the state to be here.
“We live near Houston, so I took off work today and of course wouldn’t miss it, even though she’s not playing, I was going to be here for the opening day,” Tanya Maddin said.
Tanya Maddin’s daughter Samantha is still recovering from injuries in the September crash that killed four of her teammates and hurt many more, but the left fielder has continued to practice with the team and wasn’t going to miss this big game.
“I’m 45 years old, and she’s gone through more than I’ve ever gone through, so it’s made her grow up very fast,” Tanya Maddin said.
That’s true for all the members of the team and their fellow classmates who lost close friends in the crash.
“When I walked up and they were doing the moment of silence it was kind of like a… wow it kind of brought back like all the memories of hearing about all the girls and hearing about what happened,” NCTC student Heather Birge said.
“As soon as I sat down, it was like a rush of emotions. I didn’t expect to be emotional at all. I was more proud of them for actually getting back out there and playing,” NCTC student Kelsie Coplem added.
Members of the volleyball and tennis teams wore t-shirts to pay tribute to those lost as well as the survivors. Now with their first game behind them, the team’s extended family is ready to cheer them on as their comeback continues.
“People wondered if they’d ever play again, and I was like, I can’t imagine them not playing. I mean, it gives them more reason to play for those girls. They’re watching them right now. They would want them to play,” Tanya Maddin said.
Some of those injured players who could not play Friday are only a few days away from being cleared to be back on the field, so they’ll be able to take part later in the season.
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