SAINT JOHNSBURY-The girls’ varsity basketball team is set to make a run in this year's state tournament, after posting an 18-2 regular season record and earning the number one overall seed in the upcoming state tournament, which took place on March 10th. Of course, great records and state championships are nothing new for The Academy’s Hilltoppers. This year however the team overcame what looked like insurmountable odds all stemming from a lack of bodies. Only eight girls made up their roster.
“Yeah we had eight girls, so we’ve practiced a lot with our JV players when we needed help with what we were doing at the varsity level,” said Head Coach Jack Driscoll.
Based on history, this is the first time the Academy has ever been seeded first for girls’ basketball. “It’s my last home game, I was pretty excited for our team to be seeded first, and it’s the first time in school history that’s ever happened,” exclaimed Emily Begin, Senior Captain.
So how does Coach Driscoll have so much success with limited players both in games and practice? “I think the players we have are really committed to what we’re doing, they’re all varsity level kids and have the skill required to play at that level,” boasted Driscoll. “I think more than anything else, they like to play basketball, they like to play with each other, and that’s been a key ingredient in our success this winter.”
With limited number of players, team chemistry isn’t something hard to come by and when it comes to success in team sports, chemistry amongst players is everything. “We definitely have a closer bond than most teams,” said sophomore Guard Sadie Stetson. And with a very young lineup, it was important to try and find leadership.
“We’re a young team, I have one Senior this year, and the success that we’ve had this year has come from young players, and hopefully we can carry that into next season as well,” explained Driscoll. Stetson believes that the leadership came from every player on the team. “There’s a lot of leaders, everyone steps up and does something to help out.”
Driscoll has had success in the Division One state tournament before, taking his 2009/10 Lady Hilltopper team, then with a record of 10-13 all the way to the title. Coach Driscoll sees many similarities between this years team and the team that won it all back then. “All of the girls put in a significant amount of work in the offseason, this past year,” explained Driscoll. “They’ve all committed to being a good defensive team, and they’ve all committed to certain fundamental principles we’ve been teaching them this winter such as not turning the ball over a lot, and winning all of the little games that go on during the big game.”
Coach Driscoll believes this very team has accomplished a lot for the Academy, not only in the present moment, but for the future of Lady Hilltopper basketball as well. “This team has set the bar higher for our program and our expectations, and have shown that we can compete at the highest level in the state, in the most competitive division, and I think that’s going to be something that helps the whole program going forward.”
Stay tuned as the Lady Hilltoppers continue their dominant run in the tournament when they face Bellows Free Academy in the semi-finals on March 16th in Burlington Vermont.