On Women’s Basketball, New Faces and Big Shoes to Fill

Madisyn Moore-Nicholson handles the ball against Calvin Coolidge High School on Nov. 30. Photo by Nick von Hindenburg.

The women’s varsity basketball team, made up of almost entirely underclassmen except for one senior and one junior, is hoping to live up to last year’s DCSAA Class A championship run.

Assistant Athletic Director Pam Stanfield, who is also the head coach of the varsity team, expressed particular happiness about the number of players in the basketball program this year. “I am super excited about the numbers because I was a little nervous,” she said. Before the season, “not a lot of kids signed up, but then at the first day of practice we had a whole bunch of kids.”

Stanfield said that there were enough kids playing this season to divide the group into a junior-varsity and varsity team (which has not been the case every year), with a few players switching back and forth between the two. PE teacher Jodi Jackson will coach the JV team this season.

“I always preach that we need to have a JV team because it helps develop a varsity team,” Stanfield said. “And we’ve struggled with numbers with women’s basketball, so it was amazing to see how many people turned out.”

Despite gaining many players for the new season, the team also lost a significant number from last year. Every player but one from the team’s usual starting five either graduated or left GDS and went to play for another high school team. Then-sophomore Zania Socka was a standout member of GDS’ team last year, but transferred to play for Sidwell Friends this season. Samia Greene, another sophomore on the varsity team last year, also left GDS.

Junior Madisyn Moore-Nicholson, the only member of the starting five from last year’s varsity lineup, said that going into this season, she wasn’t going to fixate on the loss of players. “Honestly I didn’t really focus on that because it was what it was,” she said. “I just focused on myself and getting better individually.”

Stanfield, similarly, wasn’t hyper-focused on the loss of players. “That’s their decision,” she said about the choice of players to move to other teams. “I just have to move on and rock with the kids that I have.”

On Wednesday, the team played a pre-season scrimmage against Calvin Coolidge High School—a team that ranked only slightly higher than GDS in DCSAA last year—and lost three of four quarters. (Since the game is a scrimmage, the game was not scored cumulatively. Scores were tallied for each of the four quarters, but not added together.)

The first quarter of the game began with a lot of strong play from Coolidge, with their players able to largely keep possession of the ball with smooth, clean passing. As the quarter progressed, though, GDS managed to break through Coolidge’s defense somewhat—largely thanks to Moore-Nicholson and freshman Cai Roberson driving the ball down the court with speed and dynamic dribbling. By the end of the quarter, Coolidge had won 15-9.

The next quarter was the only one won by GDS, and the team seemed to gain a little more confidence and comfort on the court and scored a few key points off the bat. Coolidge was destabilized slightly by GDS’ comeback, and GDS’ leading margin was solidified by a skillful three pointer from Roberson. The final score for the second quarter was 12-8.

But in the next two quarters, Coolidge regained its footing and soundly defeated GDS, first 18-12 and then 12-10, thanks again in large part to the players’ coordinated passing.

Despite the loss against Coolidge, Stanfield believes that the GDS team will only improve as the season goes on. “You got young kids, so they’ll grow and get better as the season progresses,” she said.

Moore-Nicholson also said that she believed the team had potential. “I’m hopeful for this season,” she said. “We have some good pieces and we’re putting it together.”

Stanfield, as well as senior Alex Wood and Roberson, emphasized the friendly and supportive nature of the team environment as well. “Everybody likes each other, it’s great,” Stanfield said. “And I love coming to practice every day.”

“I feel like the team has a good chemistry because everyone’s really friendly and really supportive,” Roberson added.

According to Stanfield, the success of the players moving forward will be helped by the connections they have with her and each other. She described the process of having one-on-one meetings with players to discuss their goals for the season and what they hope to accomplish. “Just having that one on one connection with the kids, that connection, I think is a big piece for us,” she said.

Sloane Holder contributed reporting.

CORRECTIONS (Dec. 4): A previous version of this story misspelled PE teacher Jodi Jackson’s name as Jody; it also incorrectly called freshman Cai Roberson a sophomore.