Basketball team rises to the top, begins journey of success

By J1 Reporter Anna Feldman

The squeak of the ball cart rings through the dark empty gym. The overhead lights flicker until they illuminate the shiny hardwood floor. A single bounce echoes from baseline to baseline. The door swings open and the players flood the gym. It is the start of basketball season.

Tryouts occurred on Monday, Nov. 12 and Tuesday, Nov. 13 before and after school. The girls were tested on their dribbling, passing, shooting and cardio abilities. The coaching staff this year includes: Varsity Head Coach Peter Cunningham, Assistant Varsity Coach Kent Bray, JV Head Coach Jessica Abel, Reserve Coach John Boeck and Coach Chris Dziadus. All the coaches agree that they are looking forward to watching the team expand in abilities and form a bond on and off the court.

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Athletes Olivia Rudloff ‘19 , Mia McGrath ‘19, Celia Hacker ‘21, Camille Duryea ‘20, Maggie Pallesen ‘20, and Hope McLeay ‘20 joke around on the sidelines. Photo by Anna Feldman   

This summer and fall, many prospective player were in the gym and weight room doing different drills and activities. “We really got the girls working. During the summer they were up here four days a week to get stronger,” Abel said. There were lots of early mornings, lifting, shooting, scrimmaging, and according to junior Parker Stafford, “Running, lots of running.”

For the 3 seniors on the team, it’s their last season and they have high hopes for themselves and the team as a whole. They hope to raise the team and program to a higher standard of playing skills and overall team chemistry. But the common theme through all the coaches and players is, “Win a district championship and make it to state,” Cunningham said. He continued by saying, “We’ve been putting in a lot of hard work and we are going to get there by pushing each other and getting better every day.”

Senior Mia McGrath said she was taught by last years’ upperclassmen to, “Lead by example.” The coaches put their trust in the seniors to lead the team with passion, hard work, and respect. They set the pace of expectations for the season and model what team chemistry should look like. No matter what, a strong team includes, “Communication and trust,” junior Chloe Eminger said.

As the athletes begin their season, they become creative with balancing school work, their social lives, and family life. “Keep working hard. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to your teachers and they will work with you,” sophomore Aryannah Harrison said. She has seen first hand, with herself and her friends, how stressful it is to handle life within basketball season.

Coaches also go through a balancing act with life and coaching. “Basketball season is my number one priority, but just like with everything else, you have to find a good balance. But it is tough because it’s over the holidays and I wish I had more time to spend with my family, but I love it, it’s a passion,” Abel said.

The upperclassmen on the team have realized what it means to be a student-athlete. “It’s rough, but we make it work,” McGrath said. Over these past three or four years, these girls have learned how to manage their time with basketball, their school work, a social life, and jobs. Along with mastering the balancing act, the minute the girls walk into the gym they should expect to “Give 100% effort all the time,” Abel said. The girls are not only prepared to better themselves, but better their teammates and strengthen unity within the team.

As tryouts come to a close, the girls are split up into three different teams: Reserve, JV, and Varsity. With their first home game on Thursday,

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Celia Hacker ‘21 catches a pass from her fellow teammate. Photo by Anna Feldman

 Nov. 29, the girls being to form chemistry and a culture within their teams. The girls need to make a connection with their teammates and learn their teammates strengths and weakness. “Your teammates are there to pick you up when you fall,” returning varsity senior Olivia Rudloff said.

In regards to the freshmen of the team, basketball season is a season full of trial and error. But most importantly, “Do your best and have fun. It’s always rewarding, as a coach, to see all the hard work pay off,” Abel said.

Most recently, Coach Cunningham has gone through a major life change. This is the first basketball season where he will have to balance his new addition to the family, a baby girl, with his head coaching position. “Not positive yet how I’m going to handle it, but my wife is really supportive, and I am embracing the crazy,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham wants the girls to know, “In my time here, we’ve gotten better each year and I just really hope to see us break through and make it to the state tournament. I really want the girls to experience state.”

The girls are looking for several wins this season and the possibility of a district and state championship, but it won’t be easy. “I am going to try and keep cheering when positive things happen and make sure when things aren’t looking our way that I keep smiling,” team manager, junior Hannah Shaffer said. Shaffer, freshman Delany Gregor and freshman Justyce Cribbs are all varsity team managers this year. They are in charge of getting the equipment ready to go, filming, and taking stats. But most importantly, they help keep the positive energy high.

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Aryannah Harrison ‘21 defends fellow teammate, Mia McGrath ‘19, in a 5 vs 5 drill. Photo by Anna Feldman

The athletes want the student body’s support. “Come to our games, please! We have so many home games, and we would love to see you all in the bleachers! It helps so much having energy from our fans,” McGrath said. Which energy and emotion from the bleachers and the bench, the athletes and coaches have high hopes for the season that could definitely end at the state tournament.

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