Eyes stare intently at the white marker board as the women’s basketball team stands in a semi-circle around Head Coach Dan Raymond. Among the blue and white jerseys are two new faces in the crowd.
Sophomore guard Christie Bonacci and junior forward Julie Schaeffer are in the huddle for the first time, giving their undivided attention to the play being drawn out in front of them. Bonacci and Schaeffer began the 2012-13 campaign as members of the junior varsity squad and were called up to varsity after the Blue and Gold suffered injuries early in the season.
Raymond felt it was time to bring up some players to the varsity level to help limit reps of players who are getting the bulk of minutes and keep practices competitive.
With junior guard Elisabeth Wentlent currently out with an injury, the South Hill squad has only one other true point guard on the roster — sophomore Samantha Klie. Bonacci played point guard on the junior varsity squad for two seasons, and Raymond said her ability to run the court was one of the reasons why she was chosen to move to varsity.
“We watched her now for basically two years and know that [Bonacci] has ability,” Raymond said. “She’s a solid player. We feel that she can play at this level.”
Schaeffer had the opportunity to practice with the Bombers a few times after the team returned from winter break. Raymond said those sessions were what helped him make his final decision.
“She fit in really well,” Raymond said. “The players really enjoyed her, and she was a benefit to us. She kind of had a little bit of a tryout — if you want to say — with those few practices, and we thought she’d be a good addition.”
Schaeffer returned to practice with the Blue and Gold on Jan. 24, the day before their matchup against Stevens Institute of Technology. Bonacci was told that same Thursday morning that she could play with the varsity team if she chose to do so. Though she was nervous, Bonacci accepted the challenge.
“I was definitely nervous because the game is a lot faster pace, but I was really excited to try something new,” Bonacci said. “It’s a bigger commitment, and they expect a lot more from you. I really like having something to work for.”
Both players must adjust to the increased strength and quicker pace of the varsity level and a whole new playbook in a short period of time. Schaeffer said she also has to adjust to the amount of playing time she will see during games.
“The first game [against Stevens] we were up by 30 before I got a chance to play, which is fine because for me, it’s more about the experience of being on this team that’s really great,” Schaeffer said. “That’s what was more important, and if they needed my help, then I definitely wanted to give it.”
Bonacci and Schaeffer said the team has been very welcoming and helpful throughout practice, whether it’s explaining a play again or offering words of encouragement. Sophomore guard Ally Mnich said both players bring something new to the South Hill squad that can contribute to the team’s already successful season.
“They just have this undeniable hustle,” Mnich said. “[Schaeffer] and [Bonacci] do the little things that a lot of us sometimes won’t do. [Schaeffer] is always the first one up and down the court, and [Bonacci] can break you down at any time. They just bring something different.”