HAMMOND | Julia Kusiak, Asya Hobbs and Elena Sobilo played one quarter of a sectional game at the end of their freshman year at Bishop Noll.
The girls basketball players felt they sat the remainder of the game because even though they helped their team take the lead, they showed up the rest of the varsity team.
There's no chance of that happening now. Not that the seniors aren't worried about younger players who are better, but that there's no animosity if a freshman out-shines a senior, or if a senior can out-pass a leading scorer.
"If someone scores, the 'team' scores, not 'I' scored," Sobilo said. "It's Bishop Noll getting two more points, not I got two more points."
That's how the Class of 2014 has helped lead Noll to its current position, as a team that is defending its Greater South Shore Conference regular-season title, tournament title and hoping for a better showing in the postseason.
The seniors on the 12-2 Warriors remember when the games weren't so much fun afterward, and that's the biggest lesson they can teach the rest of the team now.
"These seniors knew what it was like to struggle," coach Vanita Gary said. "For a lot of our younger girls, they walked into that growth spurt, that regular-season success. They don't know what it's like to struggle, and I think sometimes without that lesson you can get to a place where you expect it, expect it without putting in the work first."
"When we used to lose, we'd lose BAD," Hobbs said. "We weren't always in the game, but we'd learn from the bench what to do and what not to do."
The biggest change they had to make was that after they turned a 6-15 freshman season into a 10-10 record as sophomores, all of the then-juniors sacrificed their statistics to a group of freshmen that were gaining the spotlight. Those freshmen led the team in points to a 21-3 mark last season.
"We learned our tough lessons early on, which were beneficial," Kusiak said. "Now we get to use that to our advantage. Everyone tells us (Kusiak, Hobbs, Sobilo) especially that you turned the program around, which is crazy to think, but now I don't even remember when we were starting 1-4 or 0-4."
With the chemistry safely secure, Noll hit the middle of last season with 16 consecutive wins.
The Warriors beefed up their schedule this season, with losses already to Class 4A Highland and West Side, and hit the tough stretch of their conference season this week, followed by the GSSC tournament next week.
With their senior year rapidly approaching its close, the five who have helped bring the Warriors to a No. 10 ranking in the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association Class 2A poll hope to leave a legacy bigger than that of their record.
"For each player to give their all, whether you're in the entire game or one quarter," Kusiak said. "If you don't, how do you expect the player next to you to give her all. It's heart and desire."
That legacy includes mentoring younger players on the team and making sure that there's no separation between freshmen and seniors.
"Across the board, we have an each one-teach one structure going on," Gary said. "It's nice right now, it could hurt in the long run when we lose so many, but it's nice having that even balance of upperclassmen to younger classmen.
"They have a really big focus on walking the walk before I talk the talk. I can come up with a bunch of cliches, but the road to success is usually the one less traveled. You have to pay it up front and in full. Whether we reach that ultimate goal which they're dreaming for and bad, but I think that lasting legacy in the long run will find us that success. Consistency, tenacity, dedication, they can look back and see the process of learning those lessons."