By Liberty Davidson. Originally published in the PHC Herald. Pictures by Betsy Reich.
Patrick Henry College
Valerie Near (R) and brother Jensen help PHC women's basketball players during practice.
“I was really pleasantly surprised with the effort that the girls put forward,” Near said of the team’s first practice in early September. “I was really impressed and proud of the way people were already beginning to step up into leadership.” Regular practices have commenced through the fall, and games will begin in the spring semester. In addition, Near has planned a basketball clinic with local Loudoun Valley High School on November 19 to give her team some practice scrimmaging with another team.
As coach, Near has two goals for the season.
“The practical goal would be to begin building the foundations for a sustainable Patrick Henry women’s basketball program.”
Near’s second goal for this year is to form a spiritual umbrella under which athletics and academics can thrive together.
“I believe being successful academically as well as athletically… it is not only possible, but better overall for the student’s wellbeing.”
Valerie Near guides practice.
Senior Abby Maricle participated in the women’s basketball program her freshman and sophomore years at PHC, when the team still had few players. She said that the most exciting thing about this year’s team is “that there are a lot of people who are excited about the team with me.”
“I’m also really excited about having Valerie as coach,” Maricle said. “I think she will be able to unite the team in a way that was previously impossible.”
Though this will be her first time playing basketball, freshman Laura Reiley is enthusiastic about learning the sport and experiencing the bond within the team.
“We’ll all be really close friends, so we’ll all have people who we can depend on, people to study with, people to hang out with. It’s fun to be part of a group like that,” she said.
Near encourages the Patrick Henry College community to support the women’s basketball team, along with all the College’s athletic teams. Overall, she observed, it won’t just be the players that build the women’s basketball team, but the entire campus.