Every sports season ends with the threat of bittersweetness as tight-knit teams watch their rosters dissolve, and student-athletes are left with memories of all the dramatic wins and near-losses that will feel fresh to them for years.

For two-time senior captains Riley Magoon, Alli Sheets and Sam Messier, the end of this softball season carries even more weight than usual as it marks the end of a four-year journey together. The three softball standouts have played as teammates at the varsity level since their freshman year, and together they have set the standard for the current era of Lakers softball.

“I’ve been a coach for five years, and these girls have been with me for four of them. They helped build my program,” Colchester High School softball coach Courtney Boetsma reminisced. “It will be a challenge to let these girls go – I have been with them since they were 14, and to see that growth, the way they have made this team more cohesive, there is a bond this year that seems to be very special.”

This bond has translated to success on the diamond for the Lakers squad. During Boetsma’s tenure, Colchester has been a perennial powerhouse in the Division I standings, earning 13-3 records and going deep in the playoffs in both 2016 and 2017.

“Every year we have ended 13-3, and this year we were very scared because we started 3-3,” Sheets joked.

That fear was short lived as the Lakers suffered their last loss on May 1 and proceeded to string together a dominating 10 wins, including a no-hitter by Sheets, where she retired 16 South Burlington batters. Her pitching prowess was rivaled by Magoon, who went 8-1 on the mound this season with a 0.96 ERA. In 51 innings, Magoon struck out 109 batters and only walked nine of the opponents she faced, stats that earned her the title of Gatorade Vermont Softball Player of the Year.

During its hot streak, CHS only allowed four total runs by opponents and shut out seven different teams, but their bats were far from silent as they strung together hit after hit often pounding opponents into the ground with double digit deficits.

“What I love about playing with these guys is they are so selfless,” Messier said with a smile, “Allie hits home runs all the time, and so does Riley, but then she just lays down a bunt to move somebody ahead. They’re willing to do anything for the team.”

But the compliments flow both ways between all these captains.

“Sam is really the unsung hero,” Magoon said. “Not a lot of people pay attention to second base or the infield area, but Sam picks up all the slack for the team – I mean, the range she has is incredible.”

This selfless attitude has put the trio in the role of team captains for the past two years, a role they take seriously, remembering when they were freshmen and looked up to then-senior standouts Danielle Whitham and Taylor Losier.

“Having a leadership role, makes you want to be better,” Sheets said. “You know that younger teammates are going to eventually be the captains, and you want to set a good example.”

Mirroring the success of the regular season, Magoon opened the playoffs with a perfect game, besting CVU 10-0, and Sheets followed up with another no-hitter to lead CHS to a 16-0 win over Middlebury. This set up a match with the undefeated Essex Hornets and redemption for sophomore year.

“Sophomore year we were at Essex in the semi-finals, and it was a really good matchup. They had beat us 2-1 in the regular season game, so we knew it was going to be close,” Sheets said.

“It ended up being a two-day game and was tied going into the second day, and we lost on a walkoff. So that just motivates me more,” she said.

“Even though that game was two years ago, I still think about it every day,” Messier added in a uniquely somber moment. “We all do.”

Unfortunately, the Lakers couldn’t rid the ghosts of playoffs past, and they found themselves falling to the Hornets in heartbreaking fashion in the semis, but these leaders are already thinking about their legacy.

“You can watch the maturation of not only the human, but the player, and this year being seniors, the women they have become,” their coach said. “They came up every day to play, they brought a smile, they made us laugh – they worked their butts off.”