Comets honor late coach with on-field ceremony

Rory Moore | Mercury Staff

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Although assistant softball coach Abby Sterling passed away last November, her presence is still felt across the UTD softball team, who have dedicated the season to her memory.  

On April 6, the Comets hosted an on-field ceremony with Sterling’s family in attendance to commemorate the coach’s dedication to supporting students and lasting influence within the program. UTD also announced the creation of a softball scholarship fund dedicated to Abby Sterling, which head coach Kelly Archer said will serve as a reminder of Sterling’s impact on the program in perpetuity. 

Before the game, third baseman Adison Caddell read a statement in Sterling’s memory. 

“She was a fierce competitor with a soft spot for us girls, who she loved as if we were her own,” Caddell said. “This year, we are dedicating our season to her: every girl is wearing a green ribbon on her cleats to represent her memory … we work every day to ensure that Coach Abby’s light continues to touch every player in this program.” 

Maddie Sterling Vanderweg, Abby’s sister, threw out the first pitch as part of the opening ceremonies. Immediately prior, the entire team — wearing shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Abby Strong” across the front — gathered at the pitcher’s circle to present Sterling’s brother and sister a memory book outlining the personal impact she had on each of the players. 

“Abby meant a lot to all of us, and we wanted to do something to show that appreciation to her family,” outfielder Riley Westmoreland said. “I think it helped a lot in the grieving process.” 

Westmoreland said the idea for the memory book came out of a conversation she had with her mother. Contributions came from current students, coaches and alumni of the team.  

“I wanted to put together something that would show how special she was to us, and not just tell [her family],” Westmoreland said. “So, I asked all the girls to send me pictures they had with Abby, to write out their favorite memories or thoughts they wanted to share, and then we decorated it … it was really personal.” 

Archer said that the pre-game ceremony was also the first time that the Comets wore the Abby Strong shirts in public. The back of each shirt reads “it’s a great day to have a great day,” an adage favored by Sterling. Kyle Sterling Jr., Abby’s brother, said that it meant a lot to see that the saying resonated with players. 

“That was her quote,” he said. “She would text it to me every morning, especially after our mom passed. Every time I heard it, it brought a smile to my face … if you think about it, it makes sense, and it’s powerful when you believe it.” 

Following the softball game, Maddie Sterling and Kyle Sterling Jr. both said they were moved by the student-planned ceremony. After having most of the team in attendance at Abby’s memorial service in November, this served as another reminder of the magnitude of Abby Sterling’s impact.  

“Abby lived and breathed softball,” Maddie Sterling said. “She cared about every single person that was a part of this program like they were family, so this meant a lot … we wouldn’t have missed it for anything. And the photo album with the handwritten letters, that is something that I’m going to keep for the rest of my life.”


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