For Montana Romeril and the three other senior players on Lightning Women’s Basketball team, the 2017-18 season was the ultimate culmination of a unique journey.
A historic season that resulted in the women capturing the school’s first ever Alberta Collegiate Athletics Conference (ACAC) championship and the women’s second trip the national tournament.
This type of success does not happen overnight, but is formed with each pass, each shot and each player buying into the same system. A system that started four years ago with the hiring of Steve Shoults as head coach and the formation of a new team and a new foundation.
Only four members of the 2017-18 team remain from that initial roster, and of the four Romeril and Kassandra Baptiste saw their collegiate eligibility expire with a championship in hand and a lifetime of memories created.
“It was a dream come true to play the majority of my career with the Lightning at St. Mary’s,” said Baptiste. “The atmosphere and team bonding I experienced with the girls was the most amazing part of my experience. We weren’t just ball players but we were family. From the struggles to the good times, I could have not asked for a better team and school to play for.”
“Everyone was behind us and believed in us.”
Lightning head coach Steve Shoults credits Romeril and Baptiste for helping to establish the right culture in the Lightning locker room and believing in the his process from the outset.
“I happened to have two athletes from the start whom believed in me and what we were doing,” said Shoults. “Achieving an ACAC championship this past season could not have happened without Kassy and Montana. They have helped create a winning work ethic and have acted as leaders to the younger athletes while demonstrating what it takes to lead a team to success.”
Thanks to the Lightning’s stability as a program and the systems implemented by Shoults, both Baptiste and Romeril were able to amass a few records over the course of the career. Baptiste will end her time with St. Mary’s as the school’s leader in blocked shots while Romeril departs as the Lightning’s all-time leading scorer, assists, and steals leader.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment to take away from this great experience,” says Romeril on leaving St. Mary’s as the all-time leading scorer. “This could not have happened without Steve being the coach that he is, and also the girls I have played with over the last four years.”
“The program has developed so much since I started. The program went from being at the very bottom of the [ACAC] to a Top-10 program in the country pretty quickly, and that is a huge credit to coach Steve and the work he has put into making us better and bringing in the right girls to make that happen.”
When asked what advice they would give to up-and-coming Lightning players, both Baptiste and Romeril echoed the same sentiments about enjoying the moment.
“Enjoy it, and soak it all in the best you can,” said Romeril. “This college basketball experience can be an incredible and unforgettable experience. Five years seems like a long time, but it really does go by fast. And it does take a lot of work if you want to be the best, but it is really worth it when you’re holding a banner at the end.”
While it will be hard to leave, both Baptiste and Romeril believe that the Lightning program is in good hands and emphasize that the journey is also as important as the destination.