By Kyle Shaner
VERSAILLES – Their contributions aren’t necessarily evident at first glance, but Versailles’ six seniors have helped lead the Lady Tigers in one of the program’s most successful eras.
Versailles has reached the Final Four for the sixth time since 2007 and as always — this year’s six seniors are a big part of that.
The current seniors – Brynna Blakeley, Bailey Huffman, Emily Langenkamp, Kami Ording, Clair Schmitmeyer and Camille Watren – have been part of a state championship team, a state runner up team, a regional runner up team and now are back in the Final Four again.
“These girls know how to play. They know how to win,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “They play well together, and when they do that then good things happen to this team. We’re blessed with the opportunity to go play again, and we’re going to play as hard as we can to get the ‘W.’”
When the Lady Tigers take the court at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon against Sardinia Eastern, only one of the seniors will be in the starting lineup – Watren. The other five all come off the bench, but they each have important roles in the Tigers’ success.
“Each person brings something different,” Watren said. “Kami is our shooter. Clair is a spark off the bench. Brynna is the same, a spark off the bench. We’ve got Bailey who comes in and plays her parts, too. Emily, Emily, too. So I just think everyone just brings something different.”
Combined the six seniors make up less than a third of the team’s scoring output. A sophomore and two juniors are Versailles’ top scoring threats.
While the seniors don’t always put up big stats, they make their presence felt in other ways.
“They’re great,” Stonebraker said. “They work well together. They communicate well together. I know only one starts, but we’ve got some really good role players that come in for a lot of good minutes. They’re good kids, they’re good girls, and they’ve got good heads on their shoulders. And they have fun, and that’s what the name of the game is at this point, having fun.”
As a group they’re the girls who set the tone for the entire program.
“I really think we bring a lot of fun and we come with all the energy,” Schmitmeyer said. “We have off days, but we always have the joy, and we really keep the team up.”
Whether it’s in a game or in practice, the seniors have provided great leadership, Stonebraker said.
“Every day in practice when we’re going through drills they’re doing things that are taking us to the next level, and that goes for everybody all the way around,” the Versailles coach said.
Being the veterans of the team, the seniors have taken it upon themselves to be good role models and show their younger teammates what it takes to be successful, Ording said.
“I think that comes like automatic almost just because we’ve been around the program for a while,” she said.
Throughout their high school careers Versailles’ seniors have seen the rewards of hard work: reaching the sweet 16 in four consecutive years.
“I think it shows how much we work,” Ording said. “We’re all hard workers, and every day we step foot in the gym we know that we have to come with the mentality to work hard every day and get better, and that continues all throughout the program, all the way down the line.”
Versailles is ready for the next challenge, Friday’s D-III state semifinal with Sardinia Eastern.
“We’ve just got to keep playing our game,” Watren said. “We haven’t switched anything up since tournament started, and I think we just need to keep up our game.”
Regardless of the outcome, Versailles’ seniors already have shown the value of teamwork.
“Not any one of these girls could do this on their own,” Stonebraker said, “and just knowing that they’re playing with a team means so much to them. Not one girl is going to go out there and beat Sardinia Eastern.”
But, as the leadership of the six seniors has proven — TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) are what the Lady Tigers are all about.