A few years ago I wrote a column saying that the St. Vincent High School girls basketball players "were not blessed with an abundance of athletic talent." I went on to write glowing things about how the girls compensated by being well coached, well drilled and very intelligent, using those talents to be a successful team. You would have thought I had insulted each player individually, their parents, grandparents, dog and both cats. There were seven players on that team and I heard from six parents.
Things are different now. This year's St. Vincent players, and next year's St. Vincent players because they are the same, are well coached, well drilled and very intelligent. They know what they are supposed to do and they do it. In addition. This year's Lady Mustangs are blessed athletically.
Ursyla Baumgarten could compete in any sport she chose at any school of any size she chose. She is good enough to play basketball on the next level, but my guess is that her future may well be in softball. Rebecca Dodele is an outstanding basketball player and an even better soccer player. You cold go right down the roster, pointing to the courage of Jacalyn Murphy, the determination of Grace Jennings and the spirit of Maddie Perry. These girls can play.
It is going to get even better. St. Vincent didn't have a single senior on this year's team. In theory, all will be back. Of course, we'll have to see what transpires between now and next winter, but there will certainly be a lot of talented basketball players on the court for St. Vincent come December.
In addition to the talent St. Vincent has with this year's sophomores and juniors, the Lady Mustangs carried two very impressive freshmen. Taylor Owen is a gamer. I saw her go down and limp off the floor on the first night of the North Central League II Tournament, and come back the next night and hit a big 3-point basket. She hit another trey in last weekend's NCS playoff game at San Domenico. Olivia DeGraca literally fills a big void for St. Vincent. At 5-foot, 11-inches, she is tall enough to compete with the big post players who sometimes gave St. Vincent trouble this year. Too many tall girls don't really jump. They may hop a little, but they don't get into full flight mode. DeGraca, at least from the few times I saw her play, actually leaves the floor. She missed the San Domenico game with mononucleosis, and her absence was apparent.
St. Vincent reminds me of the Petaluma High team of last year, when the T-Girls were almost all freshmen and sophomores. That team lost more games than it won. This year the T-Girls went 24-5 and never lost a game to a Sonoma County League opponent.
The Lady Mustangs have that potential. What they lacked this season — and it was a good season (21-9) — was consistency. They played extremely well at times, but lost some games they could have, and should have won. On a good night, they can play with, and quite possibly beat, San Domenico. Saturday night was not a good night. They need to develop the maturity to play through those nights.
They also need to understand that they have to bring their A game every night. Shots will fall and shots will miss, but the best teams know how to win regardless. That maturity will come. We call it experience.
(Contact John Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org)