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Together Again

Former Lady Cougar's family dynamic still strong at Tech
Sunday, May 12, 2024

Submitted photo


Photo by Darrell James


Top left photo: Anna Larr Roberson went on to play basketball at Louisiana Tech after her time at Cedar Creek. Top right photo: Hallie Rambin (left), Katelin Cooper (middle), and Allie Furr (right) with the 2018 State Championship trophy. Bottom left photo: Katelin Cooper closed out her college softball career at Louisiana Tech. Bottom right photo: Lauren Menzina (left), and Katelin Cooper formed a friendship in their time at Cedar Creek. Left photo by Darrell James, Right photo submitted

It’s often said at the end of every high school sports season to soak in the moment, because you’ll never play with the same group of teammates again. It’s usually sound advice, given the thousands of colleges and athletic programs scattered across the country.

But as fate would have it, the 2018 Cedar Creek softball team seems to have partially come together once again at Louisiana Tech, with Anna Larr Roberson competing on the basketball court, while Katelin Cooper, Lauren Menzina and Allie Furr suit up for the Bulldog softball team.

It’s not a perfect one for one, but the feeling of reliving the glory days of winning a state softball championship at Cedar Creek still bind the four players together, even as they mark their own paths at Tech.

After all, when you build a family as tight knit as it was at Cedar Creek, sometimes the stars can’t help but align to bring that feeling back together again – to lift each other up and continue supporting each other through thick and thin.

“When we were at Cedar Creek together, it was a really special time,” former Creek and current Tech outfielder Katelin Cooper said. “You could really feel that within the team that we had a lot of really talented players. I think it started when I was getting recruited and then Lauren was getting recruited and it just trickled down. Anna Larr, Lillian, Allie. I think it’s really remarkable we all made it to Division I. You could feel we could back then and the fact that we’re all here now, it makes sense. I never thought in a million years we’d be on the same team again. But here we are. It just worked out that way.”

It’s truly remarkable how four of the nine starters on the 2018 state champion Lady Cougars could all converge on the same campus at the same time.

Cooper didn’t even go to Tech out of high school, opting to play college softball at Ole Miss before transferring back home as a graduate student.

Furr, who was just a seventh grader when Creek hoisted its trophy in 2018, isn’t even a year into her Tech experience after committing out of high school. Menzina and Roberson – two years apart – didn’t even talk about the idea of both playing college sports at their hometown school, but sure enough the former Creek pitching and catching duo are both at Tech once again.

“Maybe I need to go join the softball team?” Roberson joked when the idea of the four of them being at Tech hit her. “I definitely think it’s a very cool coincidence. I’m lucky to be a part of that and a part of that group and right now too. It’s a blessing. I try to keep up with them as much as possible too because we’re all from Ruston and it’s very small and we do see each other quite often on campus. It’s a grateful experience that we’re all a part of.”

For a refresher of how scattered the timelines are, Cooper graduated in 2018, Menzina graduated in 2020, Roberson in 2019, and Furr in 2023. And yet, here they are.

Menzina, a sophomore at the time of Creek’s state championship run, said that pitcher-catcher relationship with Roberson is as strong as it was when the two passed each other in the hallways at Cedar Creek.

“ I think it’s crazy but it’s definitely not surprising,” Menzina said. “That team was so talented and at any given moment we had five or six girls that were going to play college or had college potential. It’s awesome but it’s not surprising. We all have that bond. With Anna Larr, it was definitely a two-way street. Our personalities definitely complemented each other. We’re both super competitive but I was always more outgoing and super loud. She was a very serious, lead by example type of person. And we still text each other a lot and check in on one another so that’s been great to still have.”

Communicating over text or video call is about all the four have time in their schedule for, given crossover season of both sports and Roberson’s season ending just as the Bulldogs entered league play in softball.

Not exactly an ideal timeline to hang out on the weekends or catch a movie.

But like that old friend who haven’t seen in years and can pick up a conversation with the instant you see them again, the former Lady Cougars carry that in them.

The shared experience of climbing the mountaintop in high school allows them to trust in each other more than most. It doesn’t require coffee dates or constant face- to- face interaction.

Because if there’s one thing they each took from their time winning state titles at Cedar Creek, it would be a strong level of chemistry and communication – skills they still carry with them on their own respective teams and with each other.

“ I definitely think we learned how to bond with our teammates and how to be a tight knit group and what it means to rely on each other,” Roberson said. “It was a sisterhood in that some days we’re probably not going to get along but you have to learn how to work through that and I definitely felt like we learned that and we were able to apply that into our lives, and especially now that I’m older I look back and I see those life lessons and I’m grateful for that experience. It’s definitely crossed over into this team now being on the women’s basketball team, especially with bonding and creating those relationships because I definitely feel like I made friends for a lifetime then and now.”

And there might not have been a better test of that chemistry and trust than when Furr joined the defending state champions for the 2018 season.

Roberson remembers having to ease Furr into the mix, slowly but surely breaking the ice of what could have been a perceived hierarchy of upperclassmen and underclassmen.

“I remember her being so quiet,” Roberson said.

“We always joked around with her but she always was this quiet personality and I definitely think she’s grown and she’s definitely not the quiet 7th grader I used to see. That’s been a fun thing to see with her and her grow into herself.”

But Furr said despite the large gap in age, the team took her in with open arms and allowed her to mess up, grow, and become a steady contributor.

“All the older girls went out of their way to make me and the younger girls feel welcomed and part of the team,” Furr said. “I was intimidated. Coop was so good and I just thought I don’t know how I could keep up with that and I’m just in seventh grade. She went out of her way to make sure I knew I was meant to be there and I was good enough to play on the team.”

Cooper, a senior in 2018 when Furr was just a seventh grader, knew her young right fielder needed confidence in herself to succeed and the Lady Cougar family needed to have her back from day one, not let age get in the way of forming trust.

“I guess I saw her in me when she was a seventh grader and I was a senior,” Cooper said. “I knew she could do it from the beginning. I feel like we were a big family at Cedar Creek and we really all bought in to winning that championship. There was a special bond and that’s translated to Louisiana Tech. From playing together for years and then coming back at this level is something special.”

Julie Riser, head coach of the Lady Cougar softball team – who coached each of the current Tech athletes in their prep days – can’t help but glow with pride when she contemplates four of her former state champions are on a new journey together again.

She’s coached future DI athletes before. That’s not a shock. But to have four at the same college at the same time? She knows it’s not by accident.

“It’s really neat to see them continue playing and them playing at the same time is pretty cool,” Riser said. “I try to get to games as much as I can but it’s hard sometimes but I always support them and talk to them when I can. I love them all very much. I’m just proud of them and they all deserve it. I’m glad they’re all together at Tech.”

Roberson, along with Cooper, will move onto a new chapter from LA Tech with each of their athletic eligibilities up. It allowed for even more reflection from Roberson in how her time at Cedar Creek made her five years at Tech alongside her former teammates as special as any college athlete could ask for.

“Seven years feels like yesterday,” Roberson said. “I feel like I was just a freshman in college. Even going back to the softball field and to Cedar Creek a lot has changed. Whenever I do go those games and support them, I walk in and the whole facility has changed. That’s definitely weird for me. But things are supposed to change and evolve which is a good thing, which means the program’s growing. We had such a fun time too that it flew by. I’m glad we’re all together reliving that in some way again.”