Seniors Jenny Strycula, Leslie Elrod, Charleen Guerrero, Marissa Raya and Lindsey Shiomi ended their final basketball season for La Verne at the NCAA tournament against Puget Sound in Washington. These five seniors have served as leaders for two seasons.
The women’s basketball program at University of La Verne continues to improve every season, largely due to the dedication and support of five seniors who played their last season this year.
Leslie Elrod, Charleen Guerrero, Marissa Raya, Lindsey Shiomi and Jenny Strycula have not only shown the younger players how to run a successful program, but also how to work together and bond as a team.
“They all set good examples; they were our leaders,” sophomore guard Emily Carrillo said. “They’re the reason the whole team is so close this year.”
The five seniors have been the leaders of the team since last year, when there were no seniors on the team to guide them. In those two years this group has led the team to set goals for themselves and to pursue them together.
“I think we have higher expectations now,” Elrod said. “Our work ethic has really improved.”
The extra effort they put in during the off-season, such as early morning weightlifting during the summer and team bonding activities, led the team to win the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship, which earned them a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“They spent their own time choosing to improve their strength and conditioning in the off-season and made sure that everyone was on the same page in the preseason when everyone returned to campus,” head coach Julie Kline said.
The seniors all hope that the younger players will further the success of the program and go beyond the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the coming seasons.
Although they are all anxious to see the program continue to grow at ULV, they have plans for their own futures as well.
Elrod, a business administration major, is planning on continuing her job at 24 Hour Fitness when she graduates and pursuing some coaching offers she has had from local high schools.
“She’s the one that sets the example by working really hard,” Carrillo said of Elrod. “She’s a pretty fierce competitor.”
Shiomi, who served as a captain of the team for two years, also plans on pursuing coaching.
She will serve as the team’s graduate assistant in the fall while she attends graduate school at ULV, and she is one of 53 nominated athletes who will be attending Nike’s “So You Want to Be a Coach” workshop in April, with hopes of having a college coaching career in the future.
“She is the glue that keeps us together,” Carrillo said of Shiomi. “She talks us through everything.”
Guerrero, known more commonly by her nickname “Sharky,” will also be staying close by, as she will continue another semester at ULV before she graduates in December. Now that she is finished with her college basketball career, she is going to have surgery to repair her anterior cruciate ligament, which has been damaged since July.
Nonetheless, Guerrero did not let an injured knee stop her from playing.
“It was my last year — I refused to let an injury bring me down,” she said.
Seeing Guerrero play despite her painful injury inspired the younger players to be just as ruthless.
“She makes us play harder,” Carrillo said.
Strycula, who played outfield for two years on the ULV softball team, plans on teaching and coaching at a junior college or a high school.
“She really knows what she is doing,” sophomore Kayleen Kaaiai said of Strycula. “When she gives advice, take it.”
Raya, who served as a captain of the team for three years, plans on becoming a police officer, but still looks forward to coming back and supporting the team.
“I hope they continue wanting to be the best and continue working hard in the off-season,” she said.
The younger players will miss the encouragement and energy she brought to the team.
“She has the ability to pump up the whole team,” Carrillo said. “Her intensity carries over to us and she makes us more excited to play.”
The partnership and dedication these five seniors showcase provides a solid foundation for the program to build upon and has set the standard high for seasons to come.
“Their level of commitment, dedication, determination and desire for success has raised the bar substantially for the ULV women’s basketball program,” Kline said.
Jamie Ondatje can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.