Guest commentary: Striving for improvement

In the past month, the Homer Mariner girls’ basketball team has faced some major successes and challenges. We have missed school almost every week and played a lot of games, which has taken a toll on our minds and bodies. Each day, we work to improve.

Our first week back to school after Winter Break, we were off to Anchorage and the Valley on Thursday morning. We left around 8 a.m. and we played Anchorage Christian School that night. After an upsetting loss, we left for Houston. Coming off a loss like that on the first game of the weekend can be difficult, but we persevered and came back to win our next two games against Houston and Redington, playing some great team basketball.

The next week, we left on Wednesday morning before school to start our 14-hour bus ride to Delta Junction. On Tuesday, we had to once again collect work from teachers, most of which could be found online. That works when there is internet but, unfortunately, this time we were staying in a church where there was none. In other words, it was tough to get homework done on that trip.

We did, however, have a blast hanging out with one another and even went cosmic bowling. I remember the last night we were there, the bus driver had gone back to his B &B for the night because we were getting up at 3:30 a.m. to start the drive home. That meant we were stranded at the school after we watched the championship games. The boys decided it would be a good idea to run back to the church, which was about a 20-minute walk, and since it was -10 degrees, we agreed. Bad idea! Running in insulated XtraTufs? Not good. But we did it, laughing and joking the entire way back. We came away with a win on the last day and the trip was an experience to remember.

The next week was a rough one. We had not gotten back to Homer until 7 p.m. on Sunday and it had been an exhausting trip. I remember almost falling asleep in a couple classes that week. I was grateful because all of my teachers were very supportive, giving me time and help to make up my assignments. Yet, I had to inform them that I would be leaving again Friday morning. But I was still excited! We were heading up to play Grace Christian School in Anchorage. While this game was a frustrating loss, it was a huge improvement from last year. I remember getting crushed by Grace last year, and this year we put up a fight. It was a close game, with our team only losing by six points. Yes, those six points still haunt me every night, as I’m sure they do most of my teammates, but when we manage to look past that and see the improvement from last year, it is incredible.

After watching the boys’ game, we clambered on the bus around nine o’clock, stopping for a quick, late dinner and heading toward Seward for yet another game the next day.

It was another close match-up with Seward. It was a six-point game with only a few minutes left so we had no choice but to foul. In the end, we ended up losing by more than six points because when we fouled they made their free throws. But Coach Felice told us at the end of the game, now that we are in these close games, we just have to teach ourselves how to win them.

Coming up next was our first home game against Soldotna. Everyone knew it was going to be a tough game. We came out a little jittery at first. We were neck and neck with them for the first quarter and then we started to crumble. All of a sudden, our 9-7 lead went to 9-15. Coach called a timeout and told us, “Fix it!” I looked at my girls and all I could say was, “How could seven go to 15 within a matter of minutes?” I was furious. But we pulled it together and one of our senior captains, Alissa Cole, gave me a nod and told us, “We know what we need to do. We’ve got to take care of the ball and quit giving them those easy passes down low.” With that we broke our huddle.

After that we came out with aggressive defensive and offensive intensity. When we played Soldotna in December, they beat us by 48 points. This time it was only a 17-point difference. If that doesn’t show how grit and perseverance can improve a team, then what does?

We are all looking forward to Winter Carnival Weekend and staying home, sleeping in our own beds. We hope you can come support us at the gym.

Rylyn Todd is a Lady Mariner on the varsity basketball team and a junior at Homer High School. She is providing commentary this season from the perspective of a player on the team.