Every new season brings new challenges. For the CSAT Lady Eagles varsity basketball team 2016-17 will definitely present its share of hurdles to clear.
The Eagles enter the new season ready for the challenge of life in the Niagara Frontier League as the school switched from the Niagara-Orleans League at the start of this season.
The obvious benefit will be playing teams like Kenmore West, Kenmore East and North Tonawanda which are all closer in proximity.
The other side of the coin, however, for the Eagles is they will now be facing much larger Class AA and A schools than what they were used to in N-O, which is primarily comprised of Class B sized schools.
“It’s a major changes for us. We’re the smallest (school) now (in our league). Going from what would have been the biggest (in N-O) to now the smallest,” varsity coach Lindsay Bergman said.
“I’m brutally honest with them about the fact that competition is changing.”
Bergman said that she told her team that in the past few years in the N-O their pure athleticism would make up for what they might have been lacking in basketball skills. But that in the NFL they won’t have that luxury of being more athletic and they will have to work harder than ever before.
“I know the competition that exists from playing in Western New York myself,” said Bergman, who starred at the now closed Holy Angels Academy. Which, ironically, is where CSAT plays its home games.
“A lot of people need to step up. It’s a team thing. It’s not just we have a couple good players who’ll give 100 percent.”
So as they go into battle against these larger schools, most of which are power houses in girls’ basketball, voices of leadership will be even more important than ever before. Which presents the Eagles with the additional challenge of finding new voices as vocal leaders Chelsea Carrier and Surenity Davis-Patterson, graduated.
“We lost our voices last year,” Bergman said. “We lost our leaders. We lost our leadership voices on the bench. Off the bench. In the school. On the court. The thing with Kiara and Yaya is, again, they are two kids that I’ve had since seventh grade and they are the ones that are going to have to voice themselves and what they want out of the girls and so far they have. They’ve been successful.”
While replacing Davis-Patterson and Carrier certainly won’t be an easy task Bergman feels that she does have the girls who can do the job as she returns junior guard Yaya Navarro and senior forward Kiara King.
“I feel like it’s going to be different,” Kiara King said, “but I feel like we have the potential to work hard. Go through the challenge of the (bigger) schools and more competition than we’ve been going through each year.”
Bergman is also eager to see what Navarro, who many around the school have tabbed as the best all-around athlete in the CSAT athletic program, can do in the NFL. But Bergman stressed that at the end of the day it’s about the girls remembering that they have seen success in the past as a program. So take that confidence and embrace this new challenge.
“They know what it’s like to be successful. They’ve shown that in the last few years as this program has grown,” Bergman said. “They know what it takes. They know what it feels like to win. They know what it feels like to win when we’re not expected to win and even come close to winning when we’ve lost. Being optimistic, they’ve never looked so happy. They look genuinely excited to be at practice every day. And it’s a good feeling for me and I think for them. They’ve really bonded together already.”
Kiara King said that the girls are all well aware that life in the NFL will be anything but easy. But if they bring the same work ethic and team first mindset that helped them find success in N-O then anything is possible.
“Although it’s going to be harder we’re still gonna say we can still fight hard and play good defense, good offense and work as a team,” King said.
The Eagles will also be looking to Kiara Davis-Patterson and Izaria Ortiz, who Bergman calls the “new heart and soul of the team” to make significant contributions.
“I’m lucky enough to have girls that I coached in seventh and eighth grade when our modified team played in the NFL. Our competition was the NFL,” Bergman said. “We’re now coming back with girls that have played together before in seventh and eighth grade against NFL teams.”
CSAT will host McKinley in a non-league game Dec.5 at 6pm and the Shoshone St. Complex.
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