In sports, teams are usually measured by wins and losses and are often remembered by their play on the field. This season, the 2018 Copper Hills Grizzlies are playing for something that is greater than a win; they will be remembered for more than their play on the field. The Copper Hills girls lacrosse team are playing for No. 23 Maddie Keller.
Maddie Keller would have been a senior this season and a starting midfielder for Copper Hills. Sadly, tragedy struck the Keller family this past offseason as Maddie passed away from a surprise illness. Her passing has brought an already tight-knit team even closer as they have dedicated this season to remembering Maddie.
At the beginning of each game this season, Copper Hills has chosen to begin the game one player down for the first 23 seconds of the game in honor of Maddie’s jersey number. Teammates on the sideline take a knee remembering Maddie as the 23 seconds pass away. It doesn’t matter if the other team scores during this time; it is not about the game or the competitive disadvantage that they put themselves in, it is about showing respect for their teammate that they miss dearly.
This evening, Copper Hills played the Lone Peak Knights in the Grizzlies’ first home game; the first game on their field without Maddie. In a great show of sportsmanship and respect, Lone Peak coach Kendra Robinson decided to play a man down as well for the first 23 seconds of the game.
At half time, both teams moved to the opposite side of the field and gathered around the Keller family to show them their support. The league presented a traditional wooden lacrosse stick to the Keller family. Engraved on the shaft of the stick were the words “in loving memory of Madeleine Keller.” In a show of unity, strings of the color of each team in the league were tied to the shaft of the stick.
The Kellers graciously accepted the gift and thanked the players for their support. Among the Copper Hills players was Payton Keller, Maddie’s younger sister. “It’s tough,” Payton said. “Maddie meant so much to the team.” Payton went on to say that losing her sister has brought the team closer together.
As for the outcome of the game, Copper Hills lost by a score of 17-4 as Lone Peak played almost flawlessly and continued their early-season dominance. But for the Copper Hills Grizzlies, it’s more than a game. Each contest is one more chance to honor their teammate, sister, and friend.