You’d think that a seventh-year girls’ basketball team that went undefeated in their first 20 games, not losing until Game 1 of the State Tournament, was pretty good, right? ?
How about a eighth-grade team that won 17 straight games before ending their season with an overtime loss in the sectional tournament – and that only had one eighth-grader?
Catholic School Visitation has had both of those things this school year, and coach Kelly VanWinkle attributed the team’s success to team chemistry.
“It’s a good bunch of kids,” VanWinkle said, adding that most of the team had been together from kindergarten to Visitation.
The coach particularly appreciated the altruistic play of his team. “It doesn’t matter who scored the most points,” she said, adding that the girls congratulated each other on assists, steals or rebounds.
The team played a few games last year in a season cut short by COVID-19, but they have made great strides this year.
“They really grew up,” VanWinkle said. “It was fun training them, and they had fun.”
The seventh graders would play their game, then turn around and play the eighth grade game. VanWinkle said she was lucky there were enough seventh graders – as well as fifth and sixth graders – that she could replace freely throughout both games.
The girls’ endurance was especially noteworthy considering they did what their coach described as “really good press”.
The seventh-graders were unbeaten in the regular season, including winning the Lincoln Trail Conference season title and winning the conference tournament.
In the state tournament, they lost their first game to a team from Danville Schlarman who placed third in the tournament. They finished with a 20-1 record.
The eighth-year team lost their first two games, then recorded 17 straight wins, including the conference title and the LTC tournament. This team finished 17-3 after losing their sectional game in overtime.
A season like this, the coach and his team are looking forward to next season.
Hanging in the gym at Visitation is a painting honoring the great academic achievements of former school teams.
“We want to fill this table” with the accomplishments of current student-athletes, said VanWinkle.
The team members were:
- 8th – Taylor VanWinkle
- 7th – Addison Yepsen, Anahi Guerrero Lopez, Audrey Clucas, Annie Campbell, Bailey VanWinkle, Lillie Hampton, Charlotte Burkhart, Camille VanDeVelde, Isabelle Vargas
- 6th – Lucy Landwehr, Ellie Welgat, Natalia Martinez
- 5th – Lila Yepsen, Cora Landwehr, Evelyn Schiltz, Sophie Hamilton, Karina Piñon, Alexis Sterling, Audrey Massens
- Assistant Coach – Jen Hampton
“I had to narrow the list down to 15 for the state tournaments, so the 5th graders couldn’t dress for the regional ones,” VanWinkle said.