Editor’s note: Without the chance to honor seniors in a postseason banquet due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bemidji High School girls basketball head coach Steve Schreiber honors his seniors by detailing what they meant to the program. The Lumberjacks finished 19-9 in 2019-20 and reached their first section championship game in 10 years.
Our five seniors prevailed through massive adversity over their high school careers, from an injury to a key player in the first game of each of their four years to a tough schedule that included some of the best teams in the state.
All five -- Katie Alto, Lindsey Hildenbrand, Ashley Hofstad, Jenna Jones and Taylor Wade -- can step away from this program and say that it is better now than when they started, and that is a huge thing. Not only that, they also did incredible things off the basketball court -- whether it be the little things like spending an extra moment to say hi, high-five or just play around with the girls in the youth program to big things like fundraising for Jane Comfort.
This group of young women exemplifies what sports are supposed to be about. They stepped into a program that had not seen success in several years, and, instead of being OK with average, they were determined to be extraordinary -- as individuals, as athletes, as teammates, as leaders of an entire program and as a basketball family.
As a coach, I could not ask for more. I'm so proud of them and I can't wait to see the incredible things they do in their adult lives.
Katie was the silent leader of this group. She didn't need words; her work ethic spoke for itself.
Katie was very often the last person in the gym after practice every night. Throughout her career, she endured a respiratory cold that seemed to last for months without missing more than a practice, she lost a tooth and she took her lumps playing against more experienced girls as a freshman and sophomore.
Through all of it, she trusted in herself, her work ethic and her coach to become one of the most valuable players in Section 8-3A -- both offensively and defensively. If the younger girls can take some of Katie's work ethic and passion and carry it into next season, we will be a stronger team because of it.
Lindsey was the girl who we looked to most when we needed confidence. In big moments, we knew she would carry us through.
Lindsey did a great job of using her nerves to make herself better and never stepped down from a challenge. She started off as a defensive specialist who had a knack for scoring in big moments, and she became the go-to girl by her senior year.
The biggest thing she brought was trust. The girls trusted in her, as did the coaches. She was also very caring toward the underclassmen. If someone had a poor performance, she picked them up and never blamed anyone for their mistakes.
If the younger girls can take some of Lindsey's quiet confidence, we will be a stronger team because of it.
Ashley’s development as a basketball player from freshman year to senior year was huge, but the growth she made as a person was equally as big.
Her athleticism and work ethic made her one of the big surprises to many of our opponents this year. She also showed up as a leader who lifted us up when we needed, and she kept our heads steady when things needed to be steady. She was our even-keel.
Even though Ashley didn't play a lot of varsity basketball before her senior year, she showed up as one of our most steadfast players on the team. I think the younger girls really looked up to her, as well. If the younger girls can take Ashley's ability to never, ever quit, we will be better because of it.
After Jenna showed her ability to lead all summer long, we ended up losing her after the first game of the season due to injury. We were afraid that this would leave a huge hole offensively, defensively and from a leadership and motivational aspect. But her fellow seniors, along with juniors, sophomores and even a freshman, stepped up to fill her shoes on the court as Jenna continued to provide leadership and motivation off the court.
This was on full display in the final regular season game against Moorhead. Jenna stepped out on the court to a huge ovation and "played" for her fans and teammates, friends and family. Her teammates rose to the occasion and beat a very good Moorhead team to cap off an amazing regular season.
If the younger girls can take some of Jenna's ability to communicate and care about those around her, we will be stronger because of it.
Taylor showed that "actions speak louder than words" isn't necessarily always true.
There needs to be someone who is willing to say what needs to be said so things get done. Taylor was our vocal leader this past year.
She, much like Ashley and Jenna, didn't play a ton of varsity minutes leading into her senior year, but she had several moments in 2019-20 that showed other teams she had arrived.
Although she didn't always light up the box score, the intangibles that Taylor brought will be hard to fill. She did the little things. She took charges and she got timely steals. She had good games on the offensive side when others were struggling, and she played strong defense. Many times Taylor matched up against girls who were bigger and taller than she was.
Taylor had a never-quit mentality that helped us come back from second-half deficits when we had faltered early. If the younger girls can take some of the grit and determination Taylor had, we will be a stronger team because of it.