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Dove Creek’s Hickman saving her best for last

Montezuma-Cortez high School softball senior Rylee Hickman plays shortstop in a contest against the Aspen Skiers at Englehart Field in Cortez. (Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal)
Bulldog senior splits time between M-CHS softball, Dove Creek volleyball

With graduation coming up in the spring of 2023, Dove Creek senior Rylee Hickman doesn’t want to leave anything on the table.

The multisport standout – shortstop for the Montezuma-Cortez softball team, point guard for Dove Creek basketball, and track and field dynamo – has added at least one more pin to her letter jacket.

With some cajoling from Dove Creek volleyball head coach Lacey Murphy, Hickman added volleyball to her autumn pastimes, helping a dominant Bulldog program to an unbeaten start at the halfway point of the regular season.

“I decided I wanted to play all the sports I possibly could my senior year,” said Hickman of her four- or five-sport high school career finale.

Hickman’s career has in no small way contributed to a heyday for both the Panthers on the diamond and the Bulldogs on the hardwood. Her video-game-esque .564 batting average and 1.800 OPS, combined with a steady glove in the field, stirs a team that averages better than 15 runs per outing.

Dove Creek senior Rylee Hickman digs the ball in a match against Ignacio at Dove Creek High School. (Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal)
Dove Creek senior Rylee Hickman has split time between the DC volleyball squad and M-CHS softball team in her senior season. (Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal)

“We’re a really competitive group,” said Hickman of her softball team’s success, building a 10-1 record after a league sweep of Aspen, “and our success has been based off our ability to back each other up.”

It’s seemed like the offense never takes a day off for the Panthers, as M-CHS continues to rake at a collective .505 batting average – as M-CHS makes another push for a state tournament run. Three out the last four seasons have seen the Panthers among the final 16 teams in the 3A state tournament, and this year’s squad has a chance to continue the trend.

“It’s been more of the same, keeping our eye on the ball,” said Hickman of her team’s offensive proficiency, “and our coaches have been working hard to put us in position to be successful.”

“She’s what you want in a leader,” said M-CHS softball head coach Anthony “Hippo” Frost of Hickman’s developing role on the team, “she brings out the best in her teammates.”

Shortly after closing out the Skiers in a 17-0, 22-6 doubleheader sweep, Hickman makes the jaunt back to Dove Creek High School, trading the orange-and-black for the blue-and-yellow as she joins her alma mater for weekend San Juan Basin League volleyball matches against Norwood and Ignacio.

“I still haven’t figured out the practices,” admits Hickman, recognizing the challenges of splitting time between two successful programs, “but I’ve been able to get in enough time before matches to make sure I know the game plan.”

Softball has always been No. 1, though.

“This has been my happy place,” says the senior out on Englehart Field, “and getting to play with both my classmates at Dove Creek as well as teammates from M-CHS, Dolores, and Mancos – it’s nice to have the different dynamics between the two teams.”

M-CHS softball senior Rylee Hickman plays shortstop in a contest against the Aspen Skiers at Englehart Field in Cortez. (Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal)
M-CHS softball senior Rylee Hickman talks with head coach Anthony "Hippo" Frost while standing on third base in a contest against Aspen. (Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal)

Hickman finds her spot within the fold of the Bulldogs volleyball program, which searches for another deep state run in October and November, knowing that she won’t be the primary source for kills and aces, but using her athleticism to make an outstanding team even better.

“She’s a natural athlete,” said Murphy of Rylee’s adjustment to volleyball, in spite of not playing since middle school and limited practice opportunities, “and she’s got the mentality and positive attitude that allows her to be successful.”

Perhaps things might quiet down with only one sport to focus on during the winter – where Hickman utilizes superior court vision to spearhead the Dove Creek offense on the basketball court. Much like the rest of Dove Creek athletics, the Bulldogs enjoyed a sensational 2021-22 season, and will turn to Hickman for leadership heading into another league and state tournament push.

The now-senior has seen significant innings and minutes on the floor ever since stepping onto the scene as a freshman – and she’s looked up to some of the best Bulldogs and Panthers in the past four years. Now, heading into her final seasons at the high school level, Hickman is the player that the younger generation hopes to emulate.

“I know that there’s a lot of pressure because a lot of people look up to me,” reflected Hickman with a smile, “but I’m here to have fun and enjoy the time that I have.”