The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

April 3, 2014

Exclamation points!

Lindsey Mayle and Geena Gabriel were the unquestioned leaders of county’s dominant teams

As point guards, Geena Gabriel and Lindsey Mayle were charged with the difficult tasks of leading their respective teams this winter.

For Gabriel, a senior at Pymatuning Valley, it was a continuation of the path she’d been on since her freshman year and almost a fulfilling of the destiny she’d been on a crash course with since she was first noticed by Lakers’ coach Jeff Compan in elementary school. It was a task that would include Gabriel taking yet another step in her ever-developing role with the Lakers.

“People knew who I was, but I don’t feel like I got a lot of attention (from defenses in the previous 3 seasons),” Gabriel, the daughter of Shelley and Bruce Gabriel, said. “My freshman and sophomore years, that was no big deal. We had other people who would score. I feel like no one took me seriously and they should’ve. That drove me to be better.

“As a senior, I just felt like I had to go out and do it. My freshman year, that’s what the seniors did. They knew what they had to do. As a senior, I took it upon myself to take upon that role. The freshmen looking up to me, I hope they feel the same way (when it’s their turn).”

Mayle, a sophomore at Geneva, was asked to be the floor general, but the girl who made Eagles coach Nancy Barbo’s offense go. As a freshman, she was mainly a shooter who slotted into an offense that relied upon a number of capable scorers. In her second varsity season, she was counted upon to not only provide offense, but provide the vast majority of the Eagles’ offense.

“(Barbo) just told me I have to become vocal and more of a leader,” Mayle the daughter of Debbie and the late Tim Mayle. “I had to keep everyone on the right path and keep them motivated. We had a hard start to the season and my role was to keep everyone working hard and keep them motivated.

“I knew I would have to be more aggressive, attack the basket and get my teammates open shots. I knew I had to do whatever it took to keep my team in the game.”

Both Gabriel and Mayle not only succeeded in their roles, but thrived. Gabriel led the Lakers to a record-setting season on their way to the Division III regional tournament at Cuyahoga Falls. Mayle took the Eagles, an afterthought in the minds of many, to a berth in the Division II regional at Barberton.

The duo are Star Beacon Ashtabula County Co-Players of the Year.

Gabriel led the Lakers to a No.-1 ranking in the final Associated Press Division III Poll, the team’s first district championship and the Northeastern Athletic Conference championship and a team-record 25 victories. In the process, she became the third girl in PV history to surpass the 1,000-point plateau, following teammate Kelsea Brown and former coach and current PV athletic director Melody (Holt) Nowakowski.

However, what Gabriel will remember most isn’t a certain milestone, individual or team, that was surpassed that she’ll remember most.

“It was just playing with the girls,” she said. “It was the pride of playing together. We played together since the 5th or 6th grade. It’s great to know we came this far. We finished with an awesome season – winning the NAC, winning the district, scoring 1,000 points was awesome accomplishment and helping Kelsea to 1,000 this year was the best.

“I’m just glad I spent the season with the girls.”

The will to be the best drove Gabriel.

“I always try to do my best,” Gabriel said. “I always try to push my teammates. I feel I just always try to play my best. If you play a sport, you should always play your hardest. You should always give it your all.”

Being a leader is what mattered to Gabriel. Not reaching milestones.

“I would have never thought, as an individual, I would make it this far,” she said. “Since I was little, I wanted to be the point guard, the team leader. I wanted my teammates to look up to me.”

Mayle led the Eagles to a 17-8 mark despite a rough start to the year. Like with Gabriel, it was the drive to be the best that had spurred her to lead.

“It was just awesome,” Mayle said. “Everyone thought it would be a rebuilding year. We had lost 5 seniors and we just weren’t supposed to be that good this year. We proved everybody wrong. Being in the regional semifinal was truly an honor being only the second time in history getting there.”

Trying to be the best was a motivator for Mayle, too.

“I always put pressure on myself,” she said. “I always try to exceed expectations and do extra things.”

Mayle accomplished all of that despite the fact she was battling the emotions attached to her father’s fight with cancer. He passed away just after the season ended.

“Him going through what he went through, he kept pushing forward, kept fighting,” she said. “He would still go to the gym with me, no matter how sick he was. He taught me that there is always someone out there going through more than you.

“I realized I could always be better. He always wanted me to be the best I could be. It’s what I’ll do in honor of him.”

It helped Mayle to have her mom and sister, Shay Selby, in her corner.

“(Shay) always motivated me to do better,” Mayle said. “Watching her as I was growing up taught me hard work pays off. She received a lot of awards because of her hard work in basketball. She was always someone to look up to and set goals to become like.

“(My mom) has always been there for every game. She always tells me what I need to do better and what I’ve done well. Even when my dad couldn’t be there, she was always there. She knew I needed her and she was always there for me.”

Both girls followed in the footsteps of teammates in earning the POY awards. Mayle follows former teammate Becky Depp, who won the award the last 2 seasons, as well as Taylor Webb, whom she watched as she won the award in 2009-10, Geneva’s other district-championship season Gabriel played with Brooke Monnolly, who claimed the award in 2010-11, when Gabriel broke into the lineup with the Lakers.

“It’s a big deal for me to follow in their footsteps,” Mayle said. “I’m just young right now. It gives me a lot of motivation for the years to come.”

“It feels like I finally reached the last step,” Gabriel, the daughter of Bruce and Shelley Gabriel said. “I really worked hard this year. My freshman year, Brooke Monnolly was Player of the Year. She encouraged me to start shooting. She was a great role model. It drove me to become more like her, or to be even better and be another Player of the Year for Coach.

“It’s great to know I got it. I never thought that would be placed upon me.”

For Gabriel, the 2013-14 season was the perfect cap to her career.

For Mayle, it was simply the start.

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at bettinger@starbeacon.com.

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