The Laval High junior girls’ basketball team is headed to the 2014 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games.
© Submitted photo
The Laval Cavaliers junior girls basketball team is bound for the 2014 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games after sweeping the Roncalli Cardinals in two straight games on Jan. 18 at Laval High. Members of the team are: front (from left) — Emily O’Keefe, Amber Barron, Arianne Maltais, Hillary Neville, Brooklyn McCarthy, Lauren Kelly and Mackenzie Leonard-Power; back — assistant coach Chelsie Miller, head coach Melanie Whyte, Emily Foley, Amberlynn Wadman, Mackenzie Wakeham, Robyn Culleton and Gracie Follett.
This is after the team took out the Roncalli Cardinals in a two games out of three qualifying tournament which took place at Laval High in Placentia Jan. 18.
“We were ready for the games,” said head coach Melanie Whyte.
And, it showed.
Laval was not challenged in the first game, taking a 1-0 series lead with a convincing 43-15 drubbing of the Cardinals.
Stinging from their lopsided loss in the first game, the Cardinals came out stronger to start Game 2.
“It was after the first two periods,” said Whyte.
In the second half, the Cavaliers “got back in rhythm,” established their game and put Roncalli away by a score of 45-22 to book their tickets to Clarenville March 1-9.
It was an impressive week for Laval. A pair of lopsided losses shows the kind of talent that the team has.
Heading into the qualifier, the coach said she and assistant coach Chelsie Miller had some added pressure after the Laval boys’ squad qualified for the Games a week earlier.
“It put a bit of pressure on myself and Chelsie as coaches to, hopefully, have both male and female teams represent Laval and our region,” said Whyte.
Whyte lauded her team for putting in the work necessary to compete at the highest level in the province.
“We are in the gym any chance we can get outside of our two practice times each week,” she said. “We have a very eager, hard working group of girls who are improving each and every practice we have and game we play.
“I couldn’t be happier with the girls I’m coaching.”
When a team qualifies for an event like the Games, it is natural to size up the competition and start mapping out expectations for your squad.
Laval is no different.
The Cavaliers have experience playing some of the teams they will see at the Games, which Whyte feels will help them at the tournament.
“It’s going to be a great experience there and a great experience for the girls,” she said.
Whyte, herself, has Games experience. She travelled with Laval when the Games were last in Clarenville in 1994.
“It was such a great experience for me,” she said.
Now, Whyte is handing out advice to her players ahead of their own Games journey.
“I’m telling them to enjoy every minute of it and take it all in,” she said. “I’m telling them to learn a lot, play hard as going to the Winter Games is something they will remember for the rest for their lives and at their age wont get a chance to do again, so just have fun and enjoy the experience.”
Going to the Games with this group is going to be special for the coach as well.
“To be coaching a team at Laval these past few years and to take this team to the same place I played … is something I never dreamed or thought would ever happen,” she said.
Members of the team are: Emily Foley, Amberlynn Wadman, Mackenzie Wakeham, Robyn Culleton, Gracie Follett, Emily O’Keefe, Amber Barron, Arianne Maltais, Hillary Neville, Brooklyn McCarthy, Lauren Kelly and Mackenzie Leonard-Power.