|February 14, 2018
When I was in 8th grade a very long time ago and I was thinking about which high school I wanted to go to, I thought of Villa - not because of the academics (sorry mom) but because I wanted to play basketball. I wasn’t a very good player but I loved playing and the other schools at the time had girls playing that were fantastic. I didn’t have many choices but I knew there was no way I would play for St Peter’s - girls on the BENCH were getting basketball scholarships to college! I chose Villa hoping to play a bit - and made the team thankfully. At the time we didn’t have a varsity so all the girls that wanted to play were at the JV level by special exemption. Because there were juniors and seniors I didn’t get much playing time. It was fine though because I loved being part of the team.
Sophomore year brought us back to the varsity level and we opened a brand new gym. It was amazing. Long gone were the days of practicing at St. Dorothy’s and having all away games.
The competition at the varsity level was incredible. We played against girls that went on to Duke, Notre Dame and Seton Hall among other great colleges. We played against a girl that eventually not only scored 2000 points but also broke the island record (I believe both against us!!!), girls that jumped to the moon, girls that were great in both basketball AND softball ; girls that handled the ball like I had never seen; teams that were so good defensively that if you found yourself unfortunately in the corner attempting to take a shot they not only smacked your ball all the way to half court they knocked you down in the process (true story!). Our tallest person was 5’9; most teams we played against had at least one girl that was at least 6ft (and the 2000 point scorer was 6’4!). To say we were overmatched was an understatement. We lost a lot and I didn’t play much yet I still loved it.
Junior year brought us the 3 point shot (yes, I played that long ago) and, for me, a more confident player. Somehow, I started to score a lot of points. I was ranked on the island in scoring and, in the highlight of my basketball career, I scored 30 out of 38 points vs Hill in their gym (no 3 pointers ; we got crushed though!!). I was enjoying my role as one of the stars of our team when in January vs Sea at home I fell right in front of my parents and badly sprained my ankle. I had to be carried off the court and although I tried to come back a few weeks later vs Hill I still couldn’t put weight on it. The year was over for me. I was extremely disappointed; yet I still loved it.
Senior year they brought in a new coach. She moved me down to small forward. And although I had one good game that I can remember, I could not replicate my junior year stats. My last year didn’t turn out the way I had hoped and truth be told I was disappointed...yet I still loved it.
Fast forward 30 years and much to my shock like all of you I heard Villa was closing it’s doors. I wondered why this affected me so much- I hadn’t been there since high school. I felt a need to try and save the school though - I talked to a couple lawyers, someone who worked in the mortgage business; the real estate business; a cousin who works for a Catholic University; I googled; I wrote things down; typed things up; thought about sitting in St. Patrick’s to wait for Cardinal Dolan just because I worked two blocks away; walking over to superintendent Mcniff’s office and demanding he take a look at the school. What was compelling me to do all this? I couldn’t even remember if it was Sister Mary Margaret or Sister Margaret Mary and don’t ask me what she taught. Then I realized that it was my time playing basketball that was motivating me. When I played we were 0-30 in catholic school play yet it was hands down my favorite time during high school. We were up against many obstacles; we were knocked down and we were beaten badly yet we never gave up. Playing for Villa allowed me to come in as a shy girl who wasn’t very good in the beginning and let me grow as a player to help us succeed; they taught us about sportsmanship and giving the very best every time. I eventually became captain and had a few highlights. Although we didn’t win many games, I wouldn’t trade my basketball experience with anyone. The experience I had was because of my teammates and that's why I loved it... and I think I felt everyone should have a right to experience something like that.
As the realization sets in that we may not be able to save the school, we hope that with this reunion, even though more of a consolation prize than the win, we can add at least one more memory that can be looked back on fondly when you think of Villa. Through all this uncertainty though, remember this... even if they say they have every right to close their doors on all of us with no warning, they have absolutely no rights to the good memories we choose to keep.