All good things must come to an end. But all great things have a chance to live on and endure the test of time, at least until another chance is granted. In the world of sports, when one season ends, only time stands between that one and the start of the next. And when improvements from previous campaigns continue to build up year after year, the team and all those who are passionate and loyal to it remain excited, no matter the length of time in between seasons.Between the final whistle of the conference semi-finals and the ball flying up for the season opening tip off, the Lady Rams are thankful for all they accomplished this year and are ready to go even further next year.
The 2007-’08 squad, led by senior and team captain Catherine Andrews, reached the conference semi-finals before falling to national powerhouse Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).
Along side of Andrews were two other seniors: Amanda Vitzakovitch and Katie Kline. Vitzakovitch, or “Vitz” as she became known over her fours years at West Chester was the ultimate team player. Her role as the sixth player off the bench proved truly invaluable to the team over her career, as she was a jolt of energy late in the game that few teams could match.
Kline’s story has been told numerous times. A phenomenal player, Kline was injured early in the year and was never able to suit up full-time again, except for one last hurrah on senior day. What many people do not know about Kline is that she is more than a talented athlete. She is a terrific person that even while injured stuck by her teammates and helped guide them from the sidelines.
While the three seniors will be missed, two key players for the team will return and will own the title of captain. Natalie Winters and Janelle Garber will receive the torch from Andrews. Winters will be a senior and Garber a junior next season. But each has plans for every member of the team, from coaches all the way down to freshman: a PSAC championship and NCAA Regional tournament berth.
The two captains will be joined by an experienced group of returning players. Also with Coach Kane and Coach Wooden always on the recruiting prowl, there are few reasons not to think a few new additions to the already stellar returning cast can not take this team all the way to their first ever PSAC title.
Besides Winters and Garber, two award-winning players return for another year on the hardwood. A transfer who will be entering her senior year, Dana Weems was a saving grace for the Lady Rams this year. With the injury to Kline, Weems took over as the leader on the court. Blessed with wonderful athleticism and incredible strength and smarts, Weems churned out a PSAC East Player of the Year award and a spot on the All-PSAC East first team.
The other award winner is Megan Stewart. As she prepares to enter her sophomore year, she will be the reigning PSAC East Rookie of the Year. Stewart is a prolific player on her own but with 103 assists on the season she set the record for most assists ever for a freshman who donned the purple and gold attire.
Stewart, who is truly the definition of a team player as her assist totals show, was still honored to have her season recognized but also knows the value of having teammates who are equally talented.
“It is a very nice award to receive and an honor,” Stewart said. “I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the help of my teammates and coaches. I think it’s great that some of my teammates were honored for their hard work as well.”
Finishing the season 19-10 and 9-3 in the conference, the Lady Rams second consecutive playoff appearance saw Andrews and Garber join Weems and Stewart on the PSAC honor roll. Both Andrews and Garber were named to the All-PSAC East second team.
But no matter how this season finished, the girls will take the insights that Andrews, Vitzakovitch, and Kline have shared and plan to turn it into a dazzling future. Every member of the Lady Rams believes in team chemistry and credits their success this season to the sister-type love every player shared both on and off the court.
“I thought we really came together especially after Katie went down,” Winters said. “You know she is a big part of our team, and for everybody to step up in the way they did I thought that was great.”
One reason Winters was anointed as co-captain for next season was due to her leadership skills and ability to help rally the troops in tough times.
Winters even discussed that over her three years at West Chester, the chemistry on this team was by far the greatest. And co-captain Garber agrees that the chemistry on this squad led to a successful season.
“It was a great season,” Garber said. “Our team has so much chemistry on and off the court.”
Both Winters and Garber will have big shoes to fill with Catherine Andrews graduating but they both know that in order to continue a successful program, future team chemistry that resembles this season’s will be essential.
Another returning member of the team who is vital to the super-glue bond the team shares and a key component on the court is Lindsay Weller. Originally said to not be returning due to her grueling major, Coach Kane was willing to re-work the practice schedule so that Weller could play another season.
One player whom Weller shares an extremely close bond with is Bridget Carlin. While Carlin did not play as much as she had hoped, her team first attitude and dedication to game and her teammates will keep her ready to go at a moments notice.
With this talented group coming back, as well as new additions to the everyday squad, every soul on the team believes they are in position to take a PSAC crown. Winters sees it already.
“With the talent that we have I can definitely see us going to PSACs once again,” Winters said. “A chance of winning it and going to regionals. And you can ask anybody else and they would probably say the same thing. We have a lot of talent in our posts – and guards – and we have some new additions that will fit in perfectly in [red shirt freshman Allison Hostetter]. Also, I don’t see the chemistry losing any.”
With all current members of the ship accounted for and more to come, Winters and Garber are ready to take the wheel that Andrews has passed on to them. Through rough times and smooth sailing, the two captains are ready for battle. And they have a cast of Lady Rams who will stand behind them.
Even after they graduate they will forever be Lady Rams. And while Andrews, Vitzakovitch, and Kline have seen their successful college careers reach the end, the family they will forever be connected to has some unfinished business. Only eight short months stand between now and the 2008-2009 season tip off. Until then, keep the axes by your side. Because before you know it, the Lady Rams will again take to the hard wood. And then it will be time, once again, to CHOP WOOD!
Mike Heiman is a third-year student majoring in Elementary Education with a minor in literacy. He can be reached at MH606613@wcupa.edu.