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(From left) Russellville Krista Sikes, Madison Murray, Alivia Clemmons and AJ Taylor celebrate signing to continue their softball careers at the next level.

Quartet of Russellville softball standouts sign scholarships

Four Lady Golden Tigers made their college plans official with a softball scholarship signing ceremony at the Russellville field house Nov. 14.

Each of the girls will be seniors on the 2020 RHS squad, and three of the four will continue to be teammates after their high school playing days are completed. Alivia Clemmons, Madison Murray and Krista Sikes will join the Calhoun Community College team coached by Bart Stephenson in Decatur, while AJ Taylor signed on with Buddy Boyle’s Shelton State Community College program, which is in Tuscaloosa.

Russellville head coach Josh Graham is in his first year at RHS and hasn’t had the opportunity to lead his new team into battle yet. That being said, he has seen what each of these seniors can bring to the field because he faced them many times while leading the Lawrence County Lady Devils over the past few seasons.

“Seeing them play over the years, it never seemed like they had to be motivated to be there,” Graham said. “They were always in the games. Of course, the games that we were playing were big rivalry games, so there was a little more intensity in that, but the passion they played with – how hard they played and fought – that’s what stood out the most to me.”

Each of these student-athletes have a large number of starts in their careers at RHS leading into their final year as Golden Tigers.

Clemmons has seen playing time in both the outfield and infield, and choosing a favorite position is difficult for the talented athlete. “It depends on the day,” she said with a smile. “I’ve grown to love infield. My first two years, I played strictly outfield, and then I got the chance to play infield, and I absolutely love it.”

Murray is a standout on both the softball field and the basketball court. A basketball knee injury forced her to miss playing time in both sports, but hard work and dedication got her back into

action.

“Coming back was one of the hardest things,” she said. “I know when I got hurt, I thought that it was all over with, and I didn’t think I’d have a chance of playing anywhere. I just remember praying all the time that I would get better, and I remember going to therapy thinking I was never going to be the same again.

“It hurt so bad, and I know I had to find something within myself to come back – I had to find that determination and that push,” she added. “I knew basketball was going to be hard because everybody was going to be looking at me, trying to see what kind of person I would become and if it would define me, and I just tried not to let it.”

Sikes also plays multiple sports and said she’s looking forward to the softball season with a goal in mind. “We’re going to state this year,” she said. “Everybody’s always said since we were freshmen, ‘When they’re seniors, they’re going to be really good,’ and this is it for us.”

Taylor will be heading to Tuscaloosa to become a Lady Buc after this season, and she said she’s excited about the opportunity.

“I went to Shelton and practiced with the team, and I felt so at home. I felt like I belonged there,” she said. “Coach Boyle and the team – they’re really energetic, and they’re really hard-working. It’s somewhere that I wanted to be.”

Former Russellville and current Brooks head coach Kathryn Montgomery was also on hand to show her support for the signees. “They definitely laid a foundation here for the group that’s here now,” Montgomery said. “They are hard workers; they’ve been committed the past three to four years that I’ve known them. They’ve definitely been vocal leaders, but more than that, they’ve been active, physical leaders.”

Signing day is always a treat for coaches who get to see players reach their goals, especially for Montgomery, who got the opportunity to play at UNA.

“It makes me smile from ear-to-ear because I know what it feels like to have a dream,” she shared. “For you to sign that line, you realize that your dream has come true. You know that you’re not all the way there yet – you’ve still got some time to make count before you get there – but they signed into their dream today, and it just tickles me to death to know that they’ve reached their goal.”