There have been some all-time great duos that have walked our planet. In the entertainment industry, Siskel and Ebert dominated the movie reviews. But the easiest way to look at this is in sports. In football, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice were the ultimate touchdown duo. Basketball saw Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen win title after title. And in today’s baseball world, you can make a case for Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins being one of the greatest middle infield combinations in recent memory. These duos were all great, and not only because they were gifted athletes who all played so well on the same team at the same time. No, they were great because they complimented each other perfectly. Sometimes one preferred the headline and the spotlight a bit more than the other but they each got their just due when it came down to it. For the athletes on this list, one thing they all had in common was they won a title.
All athletes are measured not only by their individual accomplishments but by how their fingers look when their careers are over. If they are 100 percent bare, then the career was not a complete success. If they have some bling, a.k.a. a championship ring, then they showed greatness at its finest.
In the 2008-2009 women’s basketball season here at West Chester University, another duo is looking for that greatness. They have two chances to achieve it because of an injury. Natalie Winters and Janelle Garber are the co-captains of a team that has achieved more and more as the years progress and seen its win total rise each year over the past couple of seasons.
Natalie Winters is the injured one of the two, with a torn ACL from the off-season required surgery that will cause her to miss the entire season and go through months upon months of rigorous rehabilitation. But despite the injury, she will stand by her co-captain and give her all the tips she needs to help bring a PSAC championship to the campus of the purple and gold. Despite the injury, Winters will be back next year. A rule known as the red shirt will give her an extra year of eligibility due to the injury.
This loss is a huge blow to the team’s PSAC title hopes. No doubt about it. But so was Katie Kline’s injury a year ago and the team overcame the odds to go further than most anyone expected. This year, the core is a year older and a year wiser but the expectations remain the same.
At the end of this season, only one player will graduate and Winters will come back for her fifth-year, fourth-year playing, so it could be a loaded squad. But until then, she must bide her time on the sideline and help the team in any way she can. And she is ready to do that.
Last season, Catherine Andrews was team captain. This year Winters was given the honor, and her thoughts on being given the title revolve more around her experience and how that helps than actually being given a specific role.
“My thoughts on being captain haven’t changed from last year when I was playing; I just am captain from the sideline,” Winters said. “There are things that I now see from the bench that players may not see from the floor and I could bring it to their attention as a player rather than from the coaches’ viewpoint.”
Still, Winters is not downplaying her job as captain. It’s a role that has to be filled by someone with the necessary experience and she was given it because she has been a starter for three years.
The dynamic duo is completed with Janelle Garber, the standout third-year player who is the team’s anchor at the center position. Garber is in her second-year as a starter, but she plays as though she has been doing it for years. Last season Garber took her game to a new level and she will be looked upon to enhance her skills even further this year. Together, Winters and Garber are like peanut butter and jelly. Separately they are good. Together they are great.
“I like working with Janelle, because we feed off of one another. She does her thing on the floor with being the leader, and I get the sideline perspective,” Winters said of the duos basketball relationship.
Garber has a big role to fill over the next two years. With some quality forwards and centers playing on Millersville and new PSAC East member Shippensburg, Garber will be hard pressed to stop them. But she has a strategy that she feels can help her out.
“I’m quicker and faster so they better catch up to me,” Garber said.
That mindset of finding her strengths against tough opponents is what has netted Garber the captainship. She is a solid player as well and her skills on the court give the younger players something to admire and try to emulate.
Both captains have seen team chemistry at its finest. And their goal, if nothing else, is to make sure the team bonds like glue between two pieces of paper. From the sideline or on the court, Winters loves being able to witness a team coming together.
“I am excited for the younger players to get to experience collegiate basketball; also being apart of a great team chemistry that we have,” Winters said. “The bond between a team is one of the most exciting things to witness because it carries over into game play and seeing that out on the floor is awesome. I love being part of the team whether it’s from the sideline or playing, of course I’d much rather be out there playing, but you have to know your roles sometimes, and mine this year is being a vocal captain. I can’t wait to get back to running and hopefully be able to practice by the end of the season so I can be more of a leader for them when needed in those crucial times at the end of the season.”
The title of captain is not one that is given lightly. Only the most deserving of people are ever given the honor. But what defines greatness more than honorary titles are championships. And this twosome has two years left to etch their place in history. But whether they win a PSAC championship or not, they will forever be remembered as standout players and leaders to join the eternal sorority that is Lady Rams basketball team captains.
Winters and Garber are a special couple of young ladies. They are wonderful basketball players and even better people. If you get to know them, as I have over my time here at West Chester, you get an understanding as to why the team is as tightly knit as they are. And it’s fun to watch and experience. But be careful. You too could get glued into the team chemistry and once the Lady Rams suck you in, there is no getting out.
Mike Heiman is a fourth-year student majoring in elementary education with a minor in literacy. He can be reached at MH606613@wcupa.edu.