Siera Phillips and Breanna Macha Peterson don’t often talk about the bitter rivalry between their colleges. The players on Red Mountain’s softball team will do that for them at an appropriate time.
Though it has become rare for them to bring up the history between the two on the softball field. After all, they were teammates before they became rivals.
“Having both of them here, it’s like we never left each other,” Red Mountain head softball coach Rich Hamilton said. “It’s cool to see how the girls look up to them.”
Phillips and Macha Peterson both played softball at Red Mountain under Hamilton. Four years ago, when Phillips had graduated from the University of Arizona, she returned to the Mountain Lion softball program as an assistant coach. Just last year, her former teammate turned rival and Arizona State softball alum Macha Peterson also returned to the program as an assistant.
Now the two work cohesively alongside Hamilton to coach up the current batch of Red Mountain softball players. Their main goal is to have them accomplish all they did while playing as a Mountain Lion.
“To have these kids come back and want to coach here and have the pride to coach here, it makes me feel great,” Hamilton said. “When people say there are no words for things, this is one of those things. I coached them, I won state championships with them and cried with them. Now, we get to coach together.”
Phillips, a 2012 graduate, helped lead the Mountain Lions to three straight state championships from 2009-11.
As a senior, she batted .455 with 25 RBI and a pair of home runs. She went 13-0 on the mound for Red Mountain with a 1.4 ERA. Her and Macha Peterson emerged as a dynamic duo that year and combined for 228 strikeouts.
Her performance on the field led her to accept a scholarship from Dixie State University, a Division II school in Utah. She played one year there before she transferred to the University of Arizona. In three years with the Wildcats, she converted back to pitcher after being recruited to Tucson as an outfielder.
After college, Phillips wanted to dabble in coaching. When she reached out to Hamilton, he immediately brought her on board.
“It’s been fun,” Phillips said. “The first year was kind of surreal because I never stepped foot here when I left. It’s been cool to see what (Hamilton) has built. I never wanted to coach anywhere else after talking to him.”
Macha Peterson had similar success at Red Mountain during her high school career.
She batted .368 as a senior for the Mountain Lions with 24 RBI and 4 home runs. She ended her final season with a 1.02 ERA and 23-5 overall record, leading Red Mountain to its fifth straight state championship in 2014.
She went on to play at nearby Arizona State where she pitched all four years for the Sun Devils. Macha Peterson became an assistant coach at the University of New Mexico after she graduated from Arizona State in 2018. But when the pandemic struck in 2020, she returned home to the Valley.
Like Phillips, she reached out to Hamilton in search of a role as an assistant coach. Without any hesitation, Macha Peterson and Phillips were reunited at the program they helped build into a softball power.
“I have a lot of pride in this program,” Macha Peterson said. “To see everything (Hamilton) has built and the legacy we have left behind, it’s cool to come back and be here to coach the younger generation and teach them what we have learned.”
The rivalry, and at times hatred, between Arizona State and Arizona doesn’t extend to Phillips and Macha Peterson. The two only crossed paths once while in college.
But even if they don’t often feed into the rivalry, Red Mountain’s players will do it for them at times. Though it is heavily one sided, according to Hamilton.
“Siera is the only one from U of A,” Hamilton said. “Everyone else is an ASU fan. We rip her a little bit but not a lot.”
Instead of bickering about which softball program will help its school secure the coveted Territorial Cup, Phillips and Macha Peterson work in unison to teach the current batch of Red Mountain players all they learned through their experience playing the game.
Both believe their experience at the Division I level has helped them adjust as a coach. And the players they mentor have a new level of respect for them as they dream to accomplish all Phillips and Macha Peterson did in their careers.
“We are bringing back goals and things we’ve learned during our careers,” Macha Peterson. “We’ve done it, so now we can teach them and show them what we expect from them. Just being able to teach them little goals and what we did to have success, it’s pretty cool.”
Having the opportunity to coach alongside one another at the school they began to build their softball careers has been special for Phillips and Macha Peterson. Red Mountain, in many ways, gave them an identity on the field.
And each day they step out onto the diamond for practice or a game, they are constantly reminded of everything they were able to accomplish. Memories often come rushing back and are shared amongst each other, with Hamilton and the team.
In almost every circumstance, the conversations lead to one of the several championship banners along the outfield wall. Each banner is a representation of all the program has accomplished with both Phillips and Macha Peterson leading the way as players and Hamilton as coach.
Those were arguably some of the best times the three have ever shared together. And now they hope to help current players make those same type of memories.
“Seeing those banners every day, it’s exciting,” Phillips said. “That feeling, that fire we had that got us to win all five of those, that’s the feeling we get when we come out here now. That’s the standard now.”
Red Mountain's softball team plays Monday night for the 6A title against Xavier Prep in Tucson.