Last hurrah for Hayfield's 'Fab Four'
Carrie Rutledge got the feeling in about fourth grade that something special was brewing between her, Kate Kruger, Olivia Matti and Maggie Streightiff.
They still were three years away from jokingly describing themselves as the "Fab Four." But things were inching in that direction.
"Our parents were telling us then that we were pretty good (in sports)," said Rutledge, who like Kruger, Matti and Streightiff is a Hayfield senior, a foursome that is likely as talented as any Hayfield has ever had. "We were starting to do travel basketball and volleyball in the fourth grade."
They weren’t just doing it, they already were starting to make a killing at it as fourth-graders, helping the Vikings to lofty finishes in state tournaments.
They also were doing something else they’ve come to appreciate more than anything. They were building life-long friendships.
Sports have a way.
"That those four play all the same sports (volleyball, basketball, softball) makes them a little bit closer," Hayfield softball coach Jana Wagner said. "They’ve been playing the same sports together since elementary school and doing everything together for a long time."
Those golden days are dwindling, though. The countdown on that began in the fall, with their 24-6 Hayfield volleyball team finishing with a 3-2 loss to Bethlehem Academy in the Section 1A semifinals.
It then continued this past winter with a stellar basketball season that ended in the Section 1A finals for third-ranked Hayfield, the Vikings (25-5) losing to eventual state champion Lyle/Pacelli.
And now, for their clincher, they have softball. Hayfield — again led by Rutledge, Kruger, Matti and Streightiff, as well as six other crucial seniors — is gunning to advance to state for the third straight year.
Rutledge, like the rest of them, also is gunning to not become too emotional when the book closes on their sports time together.
"It’s going to be different without them," said Rutledge, the Vikings’ all-state shortstop who has yet to pick a college or decide on a college sport. Rutledge also was named all-state in basketball and all-conference in volleyball.
Kruger has decided not to play sports in college, while Streightiff will play volleyball at Division II Upper Iowa, and Matti will play basketball at Rochester Community and Technical College.
"It’s going to be hard when the season ends, no matter how we go out," Rutledge said. "That’ll be our final time playing sports together. No more summer games or practices. This is going to be the end of it, and I’m not sure how I’m going to take it yet."
At least the memories this foursome built together don’t figure to fade, same as their friendships.
Rutledge was asked to give a snapshot of what stands out most about Kruger, Matti and Streightiff.
On Kruger: "She’s funny and supportive, always joking around. In sports, I think about her having the (basketball) record for assists at Hayfield. She had a very good eye on the court and knew what your next move was before you even knew it."
On Matti: "I definitely think of basketball first with Olivia. She’s an amazing 3-point shooter. And she is so supportive, on and off the court."
On Streightiff: "Maggie is an amazing person and athlete and very humble. All four of us are humble. Maggie was my setter all throughout our volleyball careers. When I think of her, I think of a lefty hitter who was a powerhouse. She’s also very funny and quick (witted). Just a great person to be around."
Hayfield seniors Carrie Rutledge, Kate Kruger, Olivia Matti and Maggie Streightiff have been outstanding all-around athletes for years. Here are some of the awards they've collected.
Carrie Rutledge:All-state in basketball and softball; all-Hiawatha Valley League in volleyball, basketball and softball; all-Section 1A in softball.
Kate Kruger:All-HVL in volleyball and basketball, honorable-mention all-state in volleyball, all-Section 1A in softball.
Olivia Matti:All-HVL in basketball, honorable-mention all-state in basketball, all-Section 1A in softball.
Maggie Streightiff:All-state and all-HVL in volleyball, all-HVL in basketball and softball, all-Section 1A in softball.