FLORENCE — After a runner-up finish in 2019, and a canceled 2020 season, last year the Florence Falcons won it all at the State B-C softball tournament on their home field.
And this year, the Falcons are once again off to a hot start, and they're led by four seniors who have been pillars of the program in their time at Florence-Carlton High School.
The Falcons have won 11 State B-C softball titles since 2000, but last year's was one of the sweetest after the COVID-19 canceled 2020 season, and the Florence players took full advantage of getting back out on the diamond.
"I think it was very wholesome," senior centerfielder Jaidyn Larson said. "It was tough for some of us girls who have been playing softball our whole lives and we weren't able to have a sophomore season with those seniors that we wanted to have it with and so getting it our junior year and winning state was definitely a big deal for us."
Larson, Kasidy Yeoman, Kylie Kovatch and Kolbi Wood are Florence's four seniors this year.
All four saw starting varsity time right away as freshmen in 2019, which led to growing up fast in one of Montana's premier softball programs.
"I feel rewarded getting to suit up with all of these girls, my fellow seniors, and then we do very well so it makes it even 10 times more better and more fun," Wood, a shortstop, said. "It has definitely felt more comfortable when I had all of the other (current) seniors out there too because then it was like oh they're freshmen too. I didn't feel like the only one out there."
The quartet have had each other to lean on as they've gone through high school, and other sports as well as softball, and as a core group helped lift the Falcons back to the top of the sport in 2021.
"It's definitely super fun. Every time, there's no fights, no arguments, we're so together in sports," Yeoman, a catcher, said. "No matter what goes on in school, if there's anything, we know sports are our thing so we come here and that's when we play, we forget about everything and we just leave it all out there."
All four have different paths lined up after high school as well. Yeoman is signed on to play basketball at Montana Tech while Kovatch will play softball at Miles Community College. Larson plans on moving on from athletics and attending Montana State while Wood is still weighing her options with playing college sports the end goal.
The Falcons graduated just three seniors from last year's title team, so with a lot of that talent back, Florence is undefeated to start the year at 8-0, and they know they have a target on their back with the state softball tournament a month away in Lewistown.
"Just staying focused," Kovatch, a pitcher, said. "One thing that as the season goes on is you kind of get into the same routine of practice, games and you kind of start to lose focus on what you're actually going for, especially if you win the year before. And so we just really need to stay together as a team and understand that our goal is just as hard to reach as anybody else's."