The Billings Central girls have gotten healthy at the right time.
Just over two weeks ago, Rams senior Solei Elletson returned to the floor after tearing the ACL in her left knee in June of 2021, having surgery on the first of July.
With college soccer and basketball on the horizon at North Idaho College, no one would have thought twice if Elletson, a three-time all-conference pick and 2021 all-state selection, didn’t touch the floor this season. But she didn’t let that be an option.
“I just didn’t want to miss my senior year. I missed my senior soccer season. That was tough as it is. There wasn’t a day where I wasn’t like, ‘Oh my gosh. I wish I was out there playing right now,'" Elletson said. "I missed the feeling of playing and I missed the feeling of being out there with my teammates and making memories on the court instead of off the court, so I just knew that this is what I wanted to do and I put my mind to it.”
“I think the biggest takeaway from it is the dedication to a program, and more so about who she is as a person than what she does on the floor for us," Billings Central head coach Jetton Ailes said. "Obviously, she’s a key contributor and has been for four years. It’s emotional. It’s just a kid that has truly dedicated herself to a program and is as selfless as they come. She set her mind to accomplish something and it’s admirable to see her accomplish a goal she set out to a long time ago.”
With Elletson back in the mix, that’s just one more weapon the Rams have at their disposal. Central has now played stretches without both Elletson and star Mya Hansen, who missed time in December, which has given Central’s role players much-needed experience and confidence.
“The buy in here is huge, as far as it takes five players to succeed, five players to fail. There were a lot of growth moments early. The thing I admire most about the girls is how much they embraced having to step up and fill, not a void, but fill a role," Ailes said.
The Rams are loading up for one more run at a State A title. Central got a split with Hardin in 2020 and fell just short against Havre in last year’s championship game. So although this group of seniors has hardware, they’ve yet to celebrate a title with zeros on the clock.
“Those are definitely motivators just to tell you first off, don’t take anything for granted because it can be taken away in a split second," Hansen said. "We’ve seen that with COVID or with injuries, so it can be taken away. Last year, it’s just play with all your heart, play with what you can and what you can do. It’s just motivation to get better each day.”
“It’s just a prime example of what commitment, dedication and a family atmosphere can create," said Ailes. "They care a lot about each other, they play for each other, they sacrifice for each other. If you can create that culture, the wins will take care of themselves.
Central’s girls open up the Eastern A divisional tournament against Sidney on Thursday at noon inside First Interstate Arena.