While Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy isn’t set to hold an official varsity girls basketball season in the 2021-2022 year, the hope is high to keep the program on track.
Citing low participation numbers due to COVID-19, the girls basketball team canceled their season. Two seniors have banded the team together to practice and play in scrimmages with other schools, recruiting their friends and other young players on last year’s junior varsity team to play.
Seniors Sophia LaPorta and Kate Youngmark are Saint Joe’s current captains. The two have been given the full support of their teammates, the coaching staff, their institution and other schools — including Bald Eagle and Penns Valley. The two schools have allowed them to finish out their high school careers with scrimmages and junior varsity games against Saint Joe’s.
“We just have low participation numbers and I think that COVID is affecting high school sports across the nation,” head coach Katie Sosnoskie said. “I think it’s a testament to our players to come together and be able to continue with their season, continue their mission and continue the legacy that they built with this program. They want to continue for future student-athletes who will be at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy in the future.
“Hats off to our seniors that came out and helped Kate and Sophia during their senior year. They’re really excited about it. Their commitment and time is a testament to their work ethic in continuing their legacy at Saint Joe’s.”
Youngmark had a strong year in 2020-2021 and hoped to build off of it the following season. When she realized that she wouldn’t be able to take on the challenge of leading her team to the PIAA state playoffs, she was disappointed. She still continued to push to hold practices with her old teammates and recruited a number of seniors that never played organized basketball to continue training with the younger players.
It’s an experience that she wouldn’t trade, given the circumstances that her team was dealt.
“Me and my teammate Sophia, who is a senior and also played four years, rounded everyone together,” Youngmark said. “We were the two to get girls to come out. Some of our senior friends — they never played basketball before, but they helped us rally to come get some girls out to play.”
Seniors Natalie Page, Gabby Lombardi, Rachel Peachey, Madi Mazza and Taylor Wright didn’t get to play in their final season. They were part of Saint Joe’s path toward glory in girls basketball, with past successes that have included a District VI title in 2018-2019. The Wolfpack is looking for a resurgence in their girls basketball program, and there is a precedent of building from the ashes.
Saint Joe’s had a 6-16 record in the 2017-18 season. The following year, the school’s athletic leadership pushed to strengthen their level of play in the next season. Going from a program that was more like a club or intramural basketball team, they boosted their winning to new heights.
Over the course of three seasons (2018-2021), Saint Joe’s girls basketball team produced high marks with a 59-30 record over the span. They won at both the District VI and statewide levels, making it to both district and state playoffs during that time. The Wolfpack made it to the state quarterfinals in 2018, led by Selena Mann and Denaya Poston-Cooper.
Sophomore guard Kelsey Prospero hopes to be a part of the latest resurgence. She didn’t get to play much during her freshman season and is now taking the opportunity of extra practice and playing time in junior varsity games to sharpen her skills. Her work ethic has been praised by seniors and the coaching staff alike, with Prospero taking on Youngmark and other more experienced players in practice.
She hopes to be a leader going forward by going to basketball camps and getting her freshmen teammates together by getting them to join her.
“I think with all of the practices, a lot of the time we go over basics, but it’s always really good to keep doing that,” Prospero said. “With the JV games, I didn’t play a lot last year. So, having the playing time is a really big thing for me and now I play a lot more because I understand the game more than some people. It isn’t a good thing that we lose some people, but we gain more people (next season). With the upcoming freshmen I know that some of them are going to play basketball and having them there for the four years is going to strengthen the team.”
Youngmark hopes that the current seniors can pass down a legacy of perseverance to the younger players. While she won’t be playing on the NCAA level at Penn State and will likely opt for club basketball, believes that their progeny of winning doesn’t stop with them — it will continue on. That’s something that she has a hand in for the foreseeable future.
“We had some championship berths my first couple of years,” Youngmark said. “So, that was pretty awesome to be a part of. It was a great experience and I learned so much, whether it was a player or as a person. It was just awesome. I was able to look up to the older girls when I was young and now I am one of the older girls. I just hope that I’m doing that for the younger people as well.”