Aly Byorick's Diary
EDITOR’S NOTE: Aly Byorick is a member of the Nanticoke Area girls basketball team. She is writing a diary for the Times Leader that will run daily during the Trojanettes quest for the PIAA Class 3A championship.
3/20/2007
Aly Byorick's Diary 8
Thank you, and good luck

“It is not flesh and blood but the heart that makes us father and daughter.”

Mr. Rentko has lived across the street from me since I was 2 years old and I can truly say that I love him as if he were my second father. For the past 16 years I have been an addition to the Rentko residence and it seems that Trojanette point guard Leigh Ann and I are long-lost sisters.
Many will say that this led to preferential treatment on the basketball court, but I strongly disagree with that statement. I think my teammates will side with me on this one when I say that Coach has made me cry more times at practice than anyone else, and for that I thank him.
He made me the player I am today. He instilled mental toughness in me and kept me in my place. Mr. Rentko has turned our team into a family year after year, and did everything in his power to make us better players and better individuals. On the court, Coach is a loud, demanding coach. But outside of basketball, he’s a jokester with a heart of gold. He is so much more than our coach. He is our friend. My high school basketball experience wouldn’t be the same without our coaching staff and I truly can say I wouldn’t want to play for anyone else.
To Mr. Zubritiski, Mr. Williams, and Mr. Barna, thank you for all the memories. It’s hard to believe four years has come and gone so quickly. We’ll never forget the looks on your faces when you drove up and saw us toilet papering your houses after winning the district championship. Thank you for all the words of wisdom and all the extra time and effort you put into the game.
Although our season came up a little short, this year was far from a failure. We’ve accomplished so much together and I’ll never forget this run we had.
If I can offer any words of wisdom to those who are younger than me, here it is:
Enjoy every second of high school. People always told me in the past that your senior year goes by extremely fast and in the blink of an eye it’ll be done and over with. I underestimated their words.
I was so infatuated with the thought of being a senior that I wished all my high school days away. I couldn’t wait for the fun to begin. Everyone talks about how amazing it is to be an upperclassmen, but let me tell you this. Senior year is just like any other year, except for the fact that it’s filled with one last times and goodbyes. Trust me, there is nothing fun about saying goodbye to Nanticoke Area basketball or putting on my uniform for one last time.
Thank you to all the fans, parents, and everyone else who supported us all along. It was a pleasure playing for Nanticoke. It’s hard to believe it’s all over and the next time I will be on the court with Sarah Acker is when St. Joe’s and Xavier play next year. It has been fun, but now it’s time to move on.
Also, best of luck to the Bishop O’Reilly girls!
You deserve everything you’ve earned and I hope you bring a state title home to the Wyoming Valley Conference.
This saying was given to me by Mrs. Jefferies, who is an English teacher at Nanticoke Area, and her husband. I am now passing it along to my teammates, because I think it suits our season very well.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

3/17/2007
Aly Byorick's Diary 7
Madness in more ways than one
“Your dreams are only a few quarters away.”

This was the quote attached to the balloons Nanticoke football coach Bob Colatosti gave to us following Thursday’s practice. That saying is so true. As of right now, we have played 29 games, winning them all. We have had good games and bad games.
Together, we have successfully played our hearts out for 116 quarters. There have been tears, controversy, injuries, black eyes, broken noses, turnovers, missed lay-ups and air balls, yet we’ve made it through.
There are only 12 quarters remaining in the season. We can accomplish all of our dreams in approximately 96 minutes. When you look at the remainder of the season in this perspective, you realize everything you’ve worked so hard for is right in front of you.
Today at 3 p.m., we will be taking our next step at Bethlehem Freedom High School against a very solid Mount St. Joseph team. Mount St. Joseph is an all-girls prep school located in Flourtown. The team won the District 1 championship after beating Villa Maria, 51-48, and has an overall record of 26-2.
The team is very young, considering they start two sophomores and three juniors. We’ve watched numerous game tapes on them and feel we are very prepared to play an exciting game against Mount St. Joseph.
This past week or so has been an extremely stressful time for my teammates and me. Many people seem to forget that we’re only a bunch of 14- to 18-year-old girls who have to deal with the pressures of high school, let alone the pressures of “March Madness.”
Trying to keep a balance between your schoolwork and athletics around this time of year is the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. Senior projects are due on March 26, juniors are taking the PSSAs, and the marking period is winding down.
Lauren Dembowski is in the Young Scholar’s program, so she is trying to balance her high school academics, college classes, and basketball all in one day. Amanda Coughlin also recently started taking college courses in the nursing program at Luzerne County Community College and balancing that with high school is enough to drive anyone crazy.
I am taking three Advanced Placement courses, along with physics and chemistry III. The workload is unbearable. It’s a sad but true fact that there is no time for friends outside of the basketball team.
We’re all we have.
Between practices, game films, and team bonding, spare time is very rare. I can’t even recall the last time I spent time with my non-basketball friends and God bless those people on our team who have boyfriends. It’s literally impossible. Being a student-athlete and having such high team goals is a huge sacrifice for any high school student.
This brings me to my next topic, the wonderful online site PennLive.com. And I use the word “wonderful” sarcastically. If you never heard of the site, consider yourself lucky.
It’s an online site with sports forums that used to be full of educated people talking about the game – and only that. Unfortunately, it’s turned into nothing but ridiculous posts that do nothing but cut players and teams apart. My dad actually tried blocking the site on my computer because he believes no player should have to read that sort of nonsense. But yet I always find a way to get on there.
You would be shocked at how many people hide behind a computer and do nothing but ridicule and degrade high school athletes. I mean, the things these people say about girls who are as young as 14 years old is really unbelievable. Just remember, dealing with the pressures, of high school and basketball at this time is enough to stress any adult out.
The next time you go to post something, try not to forget that we’re teenage girls who work hard day in and day out to accomplish this goal of ours – to win a state championship. We’re far from perfect and we’re going to make mistakes. Try to understand that players read this forum and, at this age, we’re susceptible to criticism at such a high level. Give us, and our coaches, a break. We’re doing our best.
Hopefully we don’t get snowed in today and all the games will be played. Good luck to all the local teams that are also playing today.

3/15/2007
Aly Byorick's Diary 6
Moving forward

Nanticoke 53, Boiling Springs 32. Despite the score, my teammates and I will agree that Wednesday night’s game was the sloppiest we have played all year. Everyone who attended the game will tell you that we were our worst enemies on the court. Turnovers absolutely killed us (we had 16 in the first half) and Leigh Ann Rentko and Jen Harnischfeger broke the world record for the most fast break lay-ups missed in a game (they know I’m just joking with them).
Overall, it was not a typical Trojanette performance. However, I firmly believe that our bad play was a good thing. Why? We now know that we are mentally strong enough to stick together as a team when nothing is going our way. Winning a state championship takes so much more than talent and physical toughness. A team must learn to keep their composure at all times and understand that basketball is game of runs.
The adrenaline level of both teams is sky high in the beginning of every game. Your opposition will come out and give you their best shot in the first quarter. If you can learn to withstand their storm, you can then control the pace of the game. Although we may have left some of the fans leaving the gym disappointed, this game will be a huge factor in our journey for gold.
I have been playing basketball with Sarah Acker for as long as I can remember. At the beginning of our high school careers we had some competition between us, but we quickly learned to put that aside and work together. In the past year or so, Sarah and I went from just teammates to really good friends. I really want to thank her for carrying the team on her back these past two and a half games as I gimped around her.
She is such a dominating and exciting player and when she blocks a shot out on the court I think I celebrate more than she does. I love celebration dances, I have some pretty good moves, but I’m saving them for the big wins. Sarah has picked up her game tremendously and she deserves all the credit in the world. It kills me not to be out there at 100 percent with her, however I am doing everything in my power to get there.
Finally, I would really and truly like to thank all of our fans that came and supported us at Martz Hall. You really don’t know how much it meant to us to see and hear our fellow students rooting us on in the game. Believe it or not, it really makes a difference out there and pumps us up. In one of my previous diaries, I mentioned how we have little support from our student body. Although we will always have people against us, it was good to know we do have many supporters. Thank you once again. It was very much appreciated and you guys rocked the gym.
Our next opponent will be Mount St. Joseph’s on Saturday. Coach Rentko already warned us not to make any plans for today, because we will be at practice all evening. We are perfectly fine with that. We will be working on our weak points and I promise you that we will come out ready to go on Saturday.

3/14/2007
Aly Byorick's Diary 5
Just like family

I distinctly remember our practice before last year’s second-round state playoff game. We were doing our routine stretches against the wall when one of the seniors made the comment “Wow, this could be our last practice.”My teammates and I kind of gave her a look and pretty much said that there is no way this will be our last workout together. There was no way Oxford was going to beat us, and we would have many more practices together. Boy, were we wrong.Almost every athlete has heard the quote, “play every game like it’s your last, because you never know when it will be.” Being injured for the past week or so has given me a true understanding of that saying.I’ll admit, and I know my team will agree with me, sometimes we dread going to practice. However, sitting there on the sidelines watching my team do a suicide or getting beat up by some of the guys who play against us, I would have given anything to be on the court with my best friends. Heck, I would run 10 consecutive (sprints) in order to step in-between those lines. Therefore, when Coach Rentko finally let me practice hard yesterday afternoon, I was jumping for joy.
As coach was talking to us during a quick break, my mind began to wander off. That’s nothing new though--just kidding Mr. Rentko. I began reminiscing about last year’s team and how our season abruptly ended and then it hit me. Approximately a year ago, I played my final game with three of the most amazing girls ever, Ashley Makarczyk, Kaitlyn Malshefski, and Abby Gesecki.
Once the basketball season starts here at Nanticoke, we become a family, but once the season ends, things change. People move on to their spring sports, start working, and before you know it you go from seeing someone every day of your life, to hardly ever seeing them.
Therefore, the night after last year’s Oxford game it was almost as if I was saying goodbye to my sisters. It was the worst feeling in the world. Then I looked around the gym and spotted my fellow juniors--Lauren Dembowski, Sarah Acker, and Amanda Coughlin and my mind went back to the days of biddy basketball and all the memories we have playing together.
It was right then and there I made a promise to myself. I will do absolutely anything and everything to make our last basketball memory together, a happy one. These girls on this team are my best friends, as they were last year, and I don’t want to ever lose them. Every time I think about my senior season I don’t want one bad game or one bad experience to erase all the laughs, all the memories, and all the mischief caused.
Today at 6 p.m., we will be taking the second step in our journey against Boiling Springs at Martz Hall. The Lady Bubblers are the third seed out of District 3 and have an overall record of 26-3. After watching game films and hearing numerous scouting reports, we learned that Boiling Springs enjoys playing a 2-2-1 press and will do it the entire game if they have to.
Defensively, they switch from a 2-3, to a 1-3-1 and play little, if any man defense. Tonight’s game is one that we have been looking forward to for a long time. We finally get to play in the “Mecca of High School Basketball,” Martz Hall in Pottsville. Nanticoke Area has had many of impressive victories in this gymnasium, such as the boys 1985 eastern final game against Allentown Central Catholic and the 1990s girls eastern final against North Schuylkill. The last Nanticoke victory at Martz Hall came in 1996 when Coach Ken Bartuska’s boys team impressively romped over Susquehanna Township.
That, like tonight’s game, was during second round play. Hopefully, we can keep the Nanticoke basketball tradition alive tonight at Martz Hall. I have complete faith in my teammates, because I know we play every game like it’s our last.

3/13/2007
Aly Byorick's Diary 4
Resentment hurts

If you have been reading my so-called “diary” these past few days, you may have noticed my often use of quotations in my writings. Certain quotes find a way to empower me and at times they help me get through the day.
One specific quote that can very much be associated with the Nanticoke Trojanette basketball team is “tell us we can’t, because we can’t hear you.” When playing high school sports at a competitive level, you have to learn to block out certain aspects of life.
For instance, our team has learned that you can never please everyone. You will always have your critics, no matter how hard you play or how many games you win. People will be jealous of you and they will try to do everything in their power to bring you down. The team must learn to block them completely out.
Most important, all eyes are always on you. One wrong move and everyone will know of that certain incident. Every player must understand they are role models to many younger children. However, all these pressure and expectations can be enough to drive any teenage girl insane. As a team, we have learned to turn all this frustration into motivation.
If you have ever been to one of our games you are completely aware of all of dedicated, enthusiastic fans. They make the playing atmosphere unbelievable and we live for playoff games because we enjoy playing in front of a boisterous crowd.
Since I’ve been in high school, I’ve been hearing stories from the days of the “Jungle” which was the title of the Nanticoke student section. Every game they rocked the gym. They were completely bummed out when their beloved team lost, but celebrated like crazy when a big game was won.
Unfortunately, the “Jungle” is long gone and the emotional tables seemed to be switched. All the celebrating is done when we suffer from a loss or an injury and the sadness comes when we advance to the next level. I was sitting in my sixth-period class yesterday afternoon when the daily bulletins were being delivered. My name was called, so I turned around to acknowledge the individual.
“I am so sorry to hear your season is going to end,” is what I received, along with some laughs and sneers. Then, the person left the classroom high-fiving his friends.

Now, I’m not saying the entire school wants us to lose. We have our crazies who support us day in and day out, rock the face paint and scream the entire game.
I have been dreaming of going deep into the state playoffs since the first time I watched the game film of the 1990 girls team. I would give up anything and everything to have Coach Rentko place that gold medal around my neck.
My dreams have been my motivation for these past four years of high school. I was afraid of losing because I didn’t want to disappoint my team and myself. This year, however, our team has added motivation. We don’t plan on hearing “I told you so” and we refuse to give those certain individuals the satisfaction of seeing us lose. I do not want to walk through the hallways this year and have to look at pictures of my teammates and me crying taped on people’s shirts.
Thank you to all the fans who support us. We really appreciate it and enjoy your presence at our games. Hopefully you will make the trip to Martz Hall in Pottsville on Wednesday night and rock the gym, once again.

3/11/2007
Aly Byorick's Diary 3
Crying happy tears

Going into yesterday’s game, I knew I would only be seeing less than five minutes of playing time. However, what I didn’t know is how the outcome of the game was going to turn out. Thankfully, I was able to breathe easy while sitting next to my favorite coaches as the Nanticoke Trojanettes romped to a 54-24 win over Athens.
Watching yesterday’s game from the bench was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but it was for the betterment of my health and my team. I have absolutely no problem saying that me being less than 100 percent out on the court was doing nothing for my team besides slowing them down.
As I was sitting there watching the game, I saw something very special in my teammates. Yes, we made mistakes, but no team is able to play a perfect game. However, watching my team play yesterday truly brought tears to my eyes.
I know you may think that sounds really corny, but I’m sentimental like that. Every player who stepped between those lines played with so much heart and desire. By just looking at their faces. I could see how much each of them wanted that win.
We came out with so much enthusiasm and in turn we played a stellar first half. It broke my heart to have to watch that game from the sidelines, but seeing the way my teammates played without me really made me feel good about the goals we want to accomplish.
Nothing can even be said about the play of Sarah Acker. She was completely unstoppable and her name was written all over every rebound and lose ball. But, if you’re a GNA follower, you know that’s nothing new or unexpected. My partner in crime really stepped it up without me.
All of my teammates, in my opinion, played extremely well. However, the player who impressed me most yesterday was Kelsey Yohey.
Being only a sophomore and playing in front of a boisterous crowd, Kelsey started off the game with the jitters, but she quickly turned on her game. I thought she was the depiction of playing with heart and soul. She only had two points, but she was a beast on the boards. Her boxing out was extraordinary; remember it’s all those little things that win big games.
Leigh Ann Rentko and Jen Harnischfeger were annoying, pain in the necks to the Athens offense, but I don’t feel bad for those Lady Wildcats. I have to put up with those annoying, pain in the neck players everyday, and I’m talking off the court as well (just kidding). Lauren Dembowski hit some shots and made some strong moves to the basket.
Brianna Borowski gave us a lot of solid minutes, played tremendous defense, and was a big part of our second quarter run. Amanda Coughlin and Gaby Malishchak saw a lot of playing time as well. Gaby handled the point very well, and Amanda dominated the boards and had some key stops on defense.
Our next task at hand is Boiling Springs. I feel our team will be very prepared for Wednesday night’s game, thanks to Bobby Beggs and Billy Goodman. They spent their Saturday afternoon scouting and taping their first round game, which we plan on watching this afternoon.
However, my team will be in complete agreement with me when I say that our favorite scouting report comes from the one and only Kevin Ward. His “interesting” scouting reports provide us with a great deal or information and laughs.
In all seriousness, we would really like to thank these three guys for spending their Saturday afternoon helping us accomplish our goals. It means a lot to us and we don’t plan on disappointing this season.
There is a great quote from “Grey’s Anatomy” that I hung up on my mirror after I suffered my injury in last weekend’s game. “Pain, you just have to ride it out, hope it goes away on its own, hope the wound that caused it heals. There are no solutions, no easy answers, you just breathe deep and wait for it to subside.”
However, my coaches and I knew it wasn’t in our team’s best interest to let my pain ride out on it’s own in yesterday’s game. However, I am making a promise to myself that this injury will subside by Wednesday evening.
The Nanticoke Trojanettes will continue to work hard and I’m confident that we’ll be ready to play some of our best basketball against Boiling Springs.

3/10/2007
Aly Byorick's Diary 2
Nanticoke ready for Athens

Respect all, fear none. That is our team saying entering today’s 3 p.m. game at King’s College vs. Athens. This is the most important game of the season, because if we don’t come up with a win, our season will come to a screeching halt.
Athens is located in Bradford County and they have an overall record of 20-7. The Lady Wildcats became the District 4 runner-up to Shamokin after suffering a 40-25 loss. After watching the game film, we learned that Athens is a very fundamentally sound basketball club that will play us extremely tough and put up a battle. However, I have complete confidence in our team.
Junior point guard Leigh Ann Rentko has stepped up her game tremendously this year. She is as quick as lightning and is a royal pain on defense. Leigh Ann brings about complete havoc to opposing point guards and causes many turnovers, which in turn lead to fast break opportunities. Offensively, Leigh Ann runs the show for us and has learned how to keep her composure under certain circumstances.
Senior guard Lauren Dembowski is a hard-nosed player who is as tough as nails. I have seen her manhandle players twice her size and she shows extraordinary hustle. I have complete faith in Lauren and I know that she is capable of stopping any player throughout the state tournament.
Freshmen Jen Harnischfeger has played like a veteran all season. She enjoys teaming up with Rentko to bring complete chaos to the opposing team’s offense. Jen proved that she is able to perform extremely well under pressure in last Saturday’s game against Bishop Hoban. When I got injured, she knew she had to step it up and came up with many key shots in the victory. Although she is only a freshman, Jen is willing to take the game into her own hands and I have complete confidence in her ball-handling abilities.
Our best asset to the team is 6-foot-4 senior center Sarah Acker. She is virtually unstoppable under the basket and has proven all season long why she is one of the best post players on the East Coast. Sarah has the ability to take over any game and can score at will. Standing at 6-4, she can run the floor with ease and can step out and hit the jumper.
Off the bench, Brianna Borowski and Morgan Thomas are deadly from behind the arc. They have the ability to light it up at any given moment. Kelsey Yohey has taken her game to the next level and is a force to be reckoned with under the boards. When any of these three players step onto the court, we truly do not lose a beat.
Although I may see very limited minutes today due to my foot injury, I know everyone else will bring their “A” game. Going into today’s game, there is a lot of focus on me breaking Paul Guffrovich’s record. I want to make it clear that right now it is the least of my concerns. I am strictly focused on our team goals, which is to come out with a victory today.
I would trade in every single individual accomplishment for a chance at a state title. Hopefully, my team and I put on an impressive show for everyone today! Also, good luck to all of the local teams who are competing in the state playoffs.

3/9/2007
Aly Byorick's Diary 1
Nanticoke star checks in

“It was a very painful experience, but it would have taken the United States Army to keep me from checking back into the game.”

When I first was asked to do this column, I must admit I was a tad bit hesitant. Hopefully my daily entry will catch the interest of many avid sports fans; however, I know for some, this column will be nothing more than target practice on their dartboard.
I will be writing this post for the Times Leader now until the end of my basketball career, which hopefully lasts until March 24th (date of the state finals). In these articles, I will be discussing the goals my team and I have set for ourselves and all the hard work we have put into this season.
Hopefully, all the sweat, blood, and tears pay off in the end and we can bring home a state title to the Wyoming Valley, but for now we are taking things one practice and one game at a time.
The first topic I want to cover is my foot injury that I suffered in last week’s district championship game. For a few weeks prior to the game vs. Bishop Hoban, my left foot had been bothering me and appeared very swollen in some particular spots. I learned that I was suffering from a cyst and I refused to say anything to anyone.
My initial injury was a slight sprain to the top of my foot, along with the rupturing of this cyst. It was a very painful experience, but it would have taken the United States Army to keep me from checking back into the game. When I returned, I suffered from a deep bone contusion to the top of the foot, which caused massive swelling and much pain.
On the bright side, the road to recovery has been going exceptionally well, thanks to three of my favorite people – Dr. Jon Olengenski, Dr. Michael Banas and Dr. Malcolm Conway.
Dr. Olengenski has been our team’s savior all season long. He's always only a phone call away and he keeps our team healthy during the dreaded flu and cold seasons. Dr. Banas does everything in his power to keep the Trojanettes on the court injury-free all season long, and we are 100 percent convinced Dr. Conway is a miracle worker.
I have been seeing him twice a day in order to get my foot ready for Saturday, and the work he does is phenomenal. The Nanticoke Trojanettes would really like to thank these three doctors for all they have done for us during the course of our careers, and I would especially like to thank them for all the time they put into my healing this past week.
Also, I would like to give a special thanks to Vision Imagining MRI for putting up with my constant twitching. Although I enjoy speaking with everyone, I hope I don’t see you guys anytime soon – well at least in your office.
Everyone always makes comments about how the Nanticoke Trojanettes are only a two-person team. I hope the game vs. Bishop Hoban proves to everyone that each individual player has a tremendous amount of talent.
These girls are so much more than my teammates. They are my sisters. Every single player on the Nanticoke roster works so hard and wants to win it all more than anything. We all live by the song “When You Put Your Heart Into It,” by Kenny Rogers. Listen to it and you will see why it motivates us. We are a very determined team and we plan on conquering any obstacle that comes before us.

KENNY ROGERS » When You Put Your Heart In It

We knew it was one in a million
It was such a long shot
Somehow we've got here together
And who knows what will happen
Anything can happen
If we keep getting better
And we keep on believing.

When you put your heart in it
It can take you anywhere
Who's to say that we cant make it
Its the same dream that we share
When you put your heart in it
It can take you anywhere.

This road was so long and winding
It was such a hard road
But we cant stop once we had started
We were always getting closer
Suddenly it happens
A chance in a lifetime
Now were gonna take it
We can make it.

When you put your heart in it
It can take you anywhere
Whos to say that we cant make it
Its the same dream that we share
When you put your heart in it
It can take you anywhere...

My Advanced Placement Calculus teacher/coach, Alan Yendrzeiwski, reminded me of a memorable quote from the movie “Hoosiers.” With all the pressures and talk about the Nanticoke girls going all the way, I think it fits our team’s mindset very well:
“There’s a tradition in state tournament play – do not talk about the next step until you’ve climbed the one in front of you. Going to the state finals is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, so let’s just keep it right there.