Any successful sports team has a talented and relatively balanced mix of veterans and youth. The battle tested veterans must help the youth mold into the players they are to become. Seniors and Juniors are looked upon to lead their collegiate level teams to glory. They are looked upon to guide the younger players and carry the team. The 2006-2007 West Chester University Lady Golden Rams are no different. Or are they? Of course, Dominique Lewis and Katie Kline, a senior and junior respectively are the unofficial team leaders both on and off the court. They lead a team of 14 young women who are inspiring a campus and winning the hearts and respect of many of their peers here. They lead a team that is one of the most talented teams in the PSAC. With eight freshmen and one sophomore on the roster, this is a very young team. Make no mistake, the youth of this team is as talented as some schools’ most seasoned players. Make sure you do not tell these girls inexperience is a problem; especially ones named Natalie Winters, Lindsay Weller, Janelle Garber, and Bridget Carlin.
These four girls are leading a youth movement here for the Lady Rams. Winters, the lone sophomore on the roster, and first year guard Lindsay Weller, are both starting on a team that is second in the PSAC east and has one loss in their last ten contests. Garber and Carlin, both freshmen, are not your typical bench players. These two ladies go onto the court and look to win the game while they are on it. Janelle Garber, who may have the biggest role to fill, coming off of the bench as she does so often giving Dominique Lewis and Katie Kline a rest, does not let the pressure get to her. “I know what I have to do filling in for them. But its fun playing with those girls.” And it should be. Garber has earned her place on the court as an enforcer on the inside with her stellar play. More times than can be counted, Garber has gotten a rebound off of a missed shot and put the ball in the basket for two points in a situation that many freshmen may crumble due to the pressure. “I knew it was a young team so some freshmen were going to have to step up,” Garber added. And some freshmen have stepped up around her as well.
Bridget Carlin is not the biggest person on the court by any means. She stands at just 5’4″. She plays as big as anyone out on the court with her however. And she much rather prefers to be on the court than on the bench: “I am definitely more focused on the game when I am [on the court] than on the bench.” As any athlete with a burning desire to win will tell you, with the game on the line, they want to be out there to help their team win. Even the littlest players.
Lindsay Weller is only two inches taller than Carlin but plays just as big as her 5’4″ teammate. Weller is the lone starting freshman for the Lady Rams, but she is enjoying the ride as much as anyone else on the team. “I know my role as a starter. There is a lot of excitement and a lot of help from the girls.” Many people have never seen a freshman step up in the clutch the way Weller has. You the clutch the way Weller has. You can definitely attribute her growth and maturity both on and off the court to the assistance of her veteran teammates. But she is a phenomenal player on her own. In a huge upset against East Stroudsburg at home on February 10th, Weller stole two passes to lock up the win. She sealed the victory. As a freshman.
There are three freshman playing valuable roles on a championship caliber team. However, the youth have a leader as far as age is concerned. She is a sophomore, who even though she only has one more year of experience, has become a role model for these girls to look up to. Natalie Winters is the starting guard along side Lindsay Weller, giving the Lady Rams a duo of guards to be reckoned with for the next few years. She has embraced her role as the sole sophomore. In what was arguably the play of the year, in a game on Valentines Day at Cheyney’s Cope Hall, Winters wowed the Cheyney crowd with a behind the back, no look pass to Janelle Garber that Garber put up for two points. But Winters is ready for more. “I just want the playoffs here already. I want it to be Tuesday. But it is nice knowing that we can’t finish any lower than two so it definitely takes some of the pressure off,” a pumped up Winters exclaimed. The playoffs are coming with an added bonus. Because East Stroudsburg had booked a wrestling tournament, the PSAC final four can be held here at Hollinger Field House if the Lady Rams win their first playoff game this coming Tuesday, also here.
Winters understands the value of home court advantage: “It’s definitely nice having home court. It takes some pressure off. You just feel more comfortable when you are at home.” And you should. You have the all your friends and family and peers who you may not know personally, behind you, cheering you on.
Four girls, different roles, different positions, one common goal: to win. They are winning and they are doing it before their third year on this roster. They are young and hungry. They are talented. They are leading a youth movement for the Lady Rams and are doing it in style. Natalie Winters, Lindsay Weller, Janelle Garber, and Bridget Carlin do not care about what year they are in college. They do not care that they should not be winning now. They are doing what they want, how they want to do it. They are taking matters into their own hands so their team can win. Eight freshmen and one sophomore. So what?