When making a list of greatest softball players in Van Alstyne history, Madeline Horn’s name is sure to pop up.

A four-year starter, Maddie Horn played anywhere on the field, but mostly catcher and shortstop.

Horn was a four-time all-district selection with four superlatives: Newcomer of the Year as a freshman, Catcher of the Year as a sophomore and then finished her career with back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards. She also got honorable mention all-state, and was a pretty darn good shooter in basketball.

When it comes to athletes, Horn was one of the best this writer ever watched – even though he only wrote for the Leader full-time one year.

Well, like most student athletes, Horn was excited to continue her career and education with North Central Texas College in Gainesville.

From the outside, it looked like another dream scenario for a college athlete.

But pull back the curtains.

In her blog on Word Press at the end of June, Horn expressed her feelings of being a college athlete, her own personal life, and almost quitting softball altogether.

It was the last home game of the 2015-16 season. Horn was eating with her parents, unhappy that she lost the love for the game she had been playing for 15 years.

“I was going through tons of emotion, not knowing if it was the right choice,” she said. “Then all of a sudden I broke down, and watching your parents’ faces as you’re telling them that the love for the game isn’t there anymore was more heartbreaking than I’ve ever discovered.”

The Horns talked about going back – it wasn’t much better – but thanks to her relationship with assistant softball coach Taylor Christian, her love for the game slowly came back.

“The bond between Taylor and I became so strong so I let the spring semester play out,” Horn said. “I hit with my dad, went to the field and fell in love with the game one more time.”

NCTC made some history this season when the Lady Lions beat Weatherford College in May for the Region V North Tournament crown and berth into Nationals.

“I will never forget that moment,” Horn said. “Once the game was over, there was a sense of peace that came over me that I’ve never felt more accomplished than I ever have. I knew that whatever happened in nationals I was content, I was happy, and I knew that I would be OK if I let the game go.”

“Knowing that we made it to the national tournament was mind blowing,” she added. “Everyone thought NCTC had no chance. But we proved many people wrong.”

In the championship game of the regional tournament, NCTC won 4-3 on May 7 at Craig’s Ranch in McKinney. The Lady Lions beat Wallace State Community College at Nationals, but were eliminated by Florida Southwestern on May 18.

Horn had 30 hits, 19 RBIs and 27 runs in 48 games this season. During her two-year career at NCTC, the former Van Alstyne standout had 67 hits, 35 RBIs and 58 runs in 104 games. She also had 11 doubles and a .950 fielding percentage.

The 2015 Van Alstyne graduate is now headed to the University of North Texas next and will focus on a career in business. She’s pursuing a degree in Human Resource Management.

She had an opportunity to play softball at McMurray University in Abilene.

“I had a gut feeling it was not the right fit for me and that I wouldn’t be happy, and I can’t go through that again,” Horn said. “I’ll miss the game, I’ve been playing it since I was 4. If I didn’t miss it, did I even really love the game?”

Horn will continue to be a gym rat and hopes to join intramural leagues to stay close to all the sports — she just wants to be happy.

“Looking back, I am blessed that I had to go through this struggle,” she said in her blog. “Even though there were times I thought I was just going to quit in that moment just because I hated it. I hated who I was. My love of the game was gone. So much hate was built up inside of me. Calling my mom crying because I wasn’t happy and I was lost to find happiness. I prayed nightly and daily for what my next move was.”

“I knew that my two years as a college athlete paid off,” she said. “Even if I went through my lowest time, I found myself.”