By LAUREN TENCZA, senior
Eleven years ago, JP Stevens girls basketball won their third consecutive GMC championship. Four years ago, the Lady Hawks ended their season with only one win. Well-intentioned sports writers wrote about the Hawks’ good effort and room for improvement, but each game was another painful defeat for the once dominant team. However, in 2009, Coach Amy Bonk, a JPS alumna and leader of the victorious, 3-time GMC champion team, took over the organization, bringing her passion for and dedication to the sport with her. Under her leadership, the Lady Hawks truly have improved, as evidenced by their winning records. From one win, the girls basketball team won two games, then six; in the 2014-2015 regular season, the Hawks held an astounding record of twelve wins. Coach Bonk’s example of hard work and dedication has spread to her players, who this year the Hawks look to go even further in the GMC tournament.
Senior captain Molly Yelencsics has helped lead the Hawks through the challenge of turning the team around. As a three-year captain, Molly acknowledges, “Sometimes it was tough being a young captain.” Though most upperclassmen do not enjoy taking directions from underclassmen, Molly knows that “Coach Bonk relies on [her] to be her voice and relay her messages to the team.” Because Molly has continued to take on the incredible amount of responsibility being captain for so long requires, she has provided the Hawks with a consistency that has allowed them to grow and improve.
Molly is one of six seniors on the team, along with co-captains Rebecca DiSerio and Kathy Tong, Grace Kau, Mary Kelly, and Lauren Tencza; all six seniors have played together since middle school. Grace Kau states, “We’ve gotten better and better each year. It’s a pattern I want to maintain, especially this season since it is the last year I can devote myself to the program.” With a “chemistry stronger than ever,” the seniors aim to make their last year memorable with upsets against the top teams in the county. This dream, however, will only be possible with the help of the underclassmen.
In addition to the seniors, players Laya and Lipi Paladugu (11), Cameron DeVoogd (10), and Jamyra Maye (10) are just three examples of the multiple threats returning to the court this season for the Hawks. Aside from returning players, there are three impressive freshmen joining the varsity program, looking to make waves.
The Hawks all have high expectations for this season. Coach Bonk comments that in addition to an improved record, “We would like to continue to build cohesiveness by utilizing team-building strategies throughout the season. This approach will be helpful in increasing our confidence and camaraderie as a team.” While teams such as Edison, Bishop Ahr, and Monroe have come out on top in previous years, JP is set on changing that this year.
Featured image taken by Kathy Tong