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ASU Softball: ‘Blondentourage’s’ final days at Farrington

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ASU’s group of four seniors’ incredible friendship.

Sun Devil Softball/@ASUSoftball (Twitter)

Every picture day before the softball season kicks off, everybody can see the “Blondentourage” post on their social media — a photo of them together — with a caption relating to the same hair color they all share.

last go around with the blonde squad ❤️

A post shared by Dale Ryndak (@dale_hope) on

Four years ago, Arizona State softball seniors Nichole Chilson, Brynley Steele, Dale Ryndak and Breanna Macha (left to right in picture above) came together from Southern California (Chilson and Steele), Illinois (Ryndak) and Mesa, Arizona (Macha) to compete at one of the sport’s most prestigious programs in the country in hopes of obtaining a national championship.

Little did they know, they’d be forming the group they now call the ‘Blondentourage.’ And the hope of bringing a national championship back to ASU for the first time since 2011 is still alive. But, trophy or no trophy, they’ll be leaving Tempe with something much more valuable: Life-long friendships.

“These are the girls that are going to be in my wedding,” Macha said. “It’s funny, we’ve been talking about weddings this whole past week because it’s going to be the next chapter of our lives. They’re just my sisters. They really truly are. Just coming here, they’re meant to be in my life for a reason and I always say that.”

Chilson then added.

“It’s been really awesome growing up with them,” she said. “We’ve all been here throughout all the coaching changes. We’ve always had each other no matter what we’re going through... Brynley has actually been my roommate for three out of the four years. Me, Dale and Bre are all really close and we all get along. I’m just really excited to have these friendships for the rest of my life.”

Ryndak being the furtherest away from home as a high school graduate of Downers Grove North High School in Illinois has been a some what adopted child of her classmates’ families.

“My family doesn’t come out very often, so it’s been really cool to make all of their families my own. I was suitemates with Nichole and Brynley freshman year.” Ryndak said. “We all have our characteristics, it was just cool to see from freshman year how hard things were to now.”

Before this season, the four have been part of teams that have made the postseason, making three NCAA regionals before falling to North Carolina and LSU twice. Nevertheless, the four haven’t been part of a team as successful as the one in their final season. With victories over top five teams such as Washington and Oregon, the seniors have helped Arizona State leap into the top ten rankings for the first time since 2014.

“It’s been really fun to watch. We worked really hard in the fall,” Steele said. “And just us seniors leading up to this year we’ve worked really hard the last three years.”

“It’s nice since it’s my senior year and it’s my best year so far here,” Chilson said. “And I think it’s really awesome because everyone wants to go out with a bang and it feels good that our hard work is finally paying off. It’s fun to see.”

Macha has said for most of the season since the team’s trip to Berkeley when they swept Cal that freshman first baseman Danielle Gibson and sophomore left-handed pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez can help the seniors get the team to Oklahoma City for the College World Series.

“It’s exciting. It’s your senior year. What more could you ask for?” she said. “I keep saying that single handily that Danielle Gibson and ‘G’ can take us to the world series. I think it’s finally payed off this hard work, the preparation we’ve put in every week. It’s here.”

With the success of the team, part of the “Blondentourage” has had to take more of a bench role to support the team, as Steele explained her role with this year’s top-ten club.

“It’s obviously hard being a senior and being a role player, but I’ve done my best to be a leader vocally as much as possible,” Steele said. “Especially to the other girls aren’t playing as much as they’d like. I’ve kind of taken as my responsibility to make sure they stay ready and that they’re focused. And that this is a team win at the end of the day no matter what the stats look like. If we get a W that’s all that matters.”

Head coach Trisha Ford believes Steele’s effort of the bench helps makes the team better as well.

“Brynley is a fireball, she’s been tremendous,” Ford said. “She makes us better. Her base running is tremendous. Our outfielders are throwing people out at bags during the games, (ASU center fielder) Morgan Howe will tell you it’s because Brynley is running the bases during practice and she has to get her out. If she doesn’t make a good throw, she knows Brynley is safe. She’ll tell Mo like ‘gotchu!’ That type of interaction during practice is really healthy because it puts pressure on our defense.”

Meanwhile, Ryndak who is known for her yell when she pitches, uses her voice to help make the Sun Devils better as well.

“I’m definitely the voice of the team. I’m like the standard holder,” she said. “People come to me with questions. I’m like the most mature, I can take care of a lot of things at one time. I’m kind of like the momma, I’ll kind of set people straight. They know once whatever I say it’s final.”

Things weren’t always as easy and merry for the ‘Blondentourage’. In October of 2015 leading into their sophomore season their head coach Craig Nicholson resigned due to medical reasons. For the 2016 season, Robert Wagner and Letty Olivarez became co-interim head coaches. Arizona State then hired now-former Fresno State head coach Trisha Ford before the 2017 season. Ryndak added a story about the struggles from the beginning in Tempe.

“Freshman year it was Bre, Brynley and I who traveled most of the time, we’d be in charge of every girl’s bags. It was just the three of us because usually the freshman class are pretty big, but ours was small and we had a girl quit so it was only us three,” Ryndak said. “And we were getting yelled at because we were doing it really slow, but we just got really close because no one had to do what we did. We were just poor kids freshman year, especially at practice like we’d just be getting picked on all the time. We stuck together really well.”

Steele also added about the hardships that came with the coaching changes over the course of their careers.

“Obviously, it’s been hard,” Steele said. “We’ve had three different coaches and had to learn three coaching styles. I feel lucky that I’ve been with the three other girls. It’s made us stronger. We’ve been through a lot, so we understand each other better. And I think at the end of the day knowing that we came in together, we finished together is really exciting.”

Macha mentioned how each girl had the possible idea of transferring, but having each other helped them stay Sun Devils.

“I feel we always had each other’s back when either of us we’re thinking about leaving or thinking about staying,” she said. “Just different decisions up in the air. All of us were in communication with one another.”

A lot of the team’s success can also be attributed to current Sun Devils’ head coach Trisha Ford. For the ‘Blondentourage’ it seems that third time is the charm as Ford has brought a new type of culture to Tempe.

“Coach Ford has been awesome, she’s treated us all like her daughters and anything I need outside of softball she’s always been there,” Steele said. “She’s really helped me into be a good player. And I’m thankful that she’s here because obviously we’re winning and that’s fun.”

The idea of creating a family atmosphere and getting to know each girl individually is something the group collectively said together.

“She pulls everybody in at the beginning of the year and it’s nice because she really wanted to know us as people before players,” Chilson said. “And I think that was really welcoming. She wanted to get to know us off the field before she got to know us on the field. She’s really welcomed us with arms open. I love her, and I wish I had more years with her. I’m excited to see where she takes this program after this season too.”

Ryndak continued the appreciation of Ford.

“Ford took her time with us, the other coaches didn’t,” she said. “Last year was when she developed us, obviously this year we’ve been developed from last year, but she took her time with us. The other coaches just had their kids and just wanted do with their kids what they wanted. She wanted to make a seen program for herself and that included all of us because we’re older.”

For as much love as the seniors have for their coach, Ford shares the same love back to them. Coach Ford spoke about the roles Steele and the other three have taken on for a top-ranked softball team to create a new culture for Arizona State softball.

“You’ve seen Chilly (Chilson) this year have a great year. Bre and Dale this year they’re having another solid year,” Ford said. “It’s important and we talk about this as coaches how every person plays an integral part of your success and it really is that. We have kids that have totally bought in. They want to win, you don’t come to ASU to not win and play at a high level. They’re starting to lay down that foundation of what is the standard at ASU for softball.”

Chilson, Macha, Ryndak and Steele still have time as Sun Devils as they are a part of a team that is poised for a possible deep run into the NCAA tournament. No matter how they finish their careers on the field, the ‘Blondentourage’ will always have a mark on Arizona State softball. And most importantly, they’ll always have each other.