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Driven to succeed

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider

You see it every year, coaches are ready to name their captains for the upcoming season. Some coaches will put a player, or players, in a position they feel like they might succeed in. Give a player some extra responsibility to see if they will grow into the position.

Then there are players that just have it. As soon as they step in the room you can see they have what it takes to be a leader. Teammates are drawn to them. Their work ethic is what the coaching staff wants, and others players will feed off it.

Coaches didn’t know what to expect when they saw Alexis Dintino last year. The transfer from Nardin Academy was in her first year at Mt. Mercy Academy playing both basketball and tennis. After a few short practices, what the coaches saw was she had the making of someone who could lead others.

She just has a poise about her that her teammates are drawn too. But, it’s not like Dintino ever saw herself as a leader. She is a kid who just wants to play the game, and give her best.

“I was never noticed, or seen, as a leader freshman year, so stepping up sophomore year as a leader and being seen as a leader for my team was a big change,” stated Dintino. “I like helping people who want to become better and when they look up to me it makes me want to play better and work even harder so hopefully they will want to too. If a whole team works hard they can accomplish great things, but if only one person puts in the effort, it won’t take the team anywhere.”

Off the court, Dintino is someone who will crack a joke, and doesn’t take herself that seriously. On the court it’s completely different. Whether it’s the basketball court, or tennis court, as soon as Dintino steps out there she is ready to compete.

She has a drive to succeed. She has a drive to be the very best at whatever she does. But what drives Dintino to be the very best? Winning, she wants fro win just as bad as anyone - and it shows.

She wants to make the winning shot, or hit that backhand down the line that gets people off their seat. She wants to succeed for her parents - and make them proud.

“What drives me to be the best or succeed in all the sports I play, mostly basketball and tennis, is the feeling of winning and achieving something not everyone gets,” stated Dintino. “When I make something happen on the court that just makes everyone stop and realize what I just did, makes all the hard work and effort I have put in for the last eight years worth it. Making my family proud is a big factor, it makes me feel good and like I achieved more than I did when not only i’m proud of myself but my family is too.”

A two-sport athlete at Mt. Mercy Academy, Dintino knows there will be some kind of stress each game. She also knows she needs to tune out everything that is going around her and just focus on her game.

When she steps on the basketball court, there will be times she will draw the double team, it’s part of the game. While that can frustrate most players, Dintino knows she just has to play her game and find her open teammates.

A double team means someone else is open who can knock down the shot.

“Every game is a different type of stress, it's hard when you're having a bad game.I still remember to have a positive attitude and give all my effort for my teammates,” stated Dintino. “Drawing a doubles team is never a bad thing to me, it just only means one of my teammates is open for the shot or for an easy layup. It only makes me work harder knowing I have two people on me and I have to be strong with the ball.”

The basketball portion came to an end a couple weeks ago with a loss to Mt. St. Mary Academy in the Monsignor Martin Division B championship game. It wasn’t the ending the Magic wanted, considering they were hitting their stride toward the end of the season.

With a new coach, and system, put in place just a few days before the season started, it took Mt. Mercy awhile to get going. But, they did just that with wins over MSM and Park to claim a share of their first division title since 2014.

But, the finals have left a bad taste in the mouth of Dintino, and her teammates. Come this offseason, and next year, they are going to do everything possible to not feel like that again.

“Losing in the finals definitely was hard and not fun, especially since we were so close and worked hard all season long. Coming in with a whole new program and coach, adjusting to all the new things was not easy at first but we all worked hard and made the finals,” stated Dintino. “It makes me want to work harder over the summer and get together with my team and put in hours so we can come back next year even stronger. Getting everyone on the same page is the first step to our new season, and making sure we are all working toward the same goals, so we can achieve the championship we have all been wanting.”

As tennis season rolls around, Dintino is ready to make the jump to the top spot after just two seasons. As a sophomore, Dintino started the year at third singles before moving up to the second spot last year.

But, this is her team this year. She knows all eyes will be on her to lead this team to another division title, in a tough division. The Magic, winners of the B Division last year, are moving up to take on the big schools.

“Preparing for the number 1 spot for the next fall season will definitely be a challenge. Not only do I need to make sure I'm preparing and practicing myself, but since I'm taking the role as captain, I need to make sure my teammates are prepared and ready to go,” stated Dintino. “I know I will face better, stronger players than me this coming season, but that only makes me want to win more. As long as I give them a game and not an easy win, that's a win to me like I have achieved something.”

Her accession to the number spot could be a surprise to some. While she has a tennis background, taking lessons when she was younger, Dintino never played a real match until her first match her sophomore season.

There is a whole different kind of pressure when you are left on an island. Playing high school, and college tennis, is a different kind of animal. You just aren’t playing for yourself, but for a team win. If you can take care of business at your spot it gives the team a better chance of winning its match.

As a singles player, you have to figure out the game yourself, You don’t have teammates to rely on if something goes bad. That was an adjustment Dintino had to make. And, a transition she has been able to make.

“I've been playing tennis since I was little at my country club, and I just never felt the need to continue besides over the summer. My sophomore year I wanted a spring sport to keep me active, so I thought tennis would be a great option because I already had a background,” stated Dintino. “It was different playing on a high school team, and I haven't played a real serious match before. The biggest obstacle I had that season was probably just getting over the first hump, knowing the rules, getting my forehand and backhand done. As long as I had those two things I felt like I could somewhat compete with anyone and I carried that throughout my junior season.”

If two sports wasn’t enough, Dintino will be part of a handful of girls who will make up Mt. Mercy’s first flag football team this spring. It’s just another chance for her try her hand at a new sport.

Flag football has become extremely popular over the past couple of years, and this will be the first time that schools in the Monsignor Martin will field teams. This first season will be a club year, but the games still matter.

“I love playing new sports, especially one that everyone is just learning and having fun. I like staying active during my off season, especially since I am not traveling this spring for basketball, so adding another sport will keep me busy and help my skills for my other sports,” stated Dintino. “Playing for another championship is always fun and a thrill because everyone has a good and equal chance, since this is a new sport for the league. Not only am I playing flag football this spring, but I'm still keeping busy with basketball and tennis throughout the weeks.”

And she is keeping up with her grades. Dintino isn’t going to use the fact that she is busy to let he grades slip. The junior is killing it in the classroom like she would on the court. She knows sports won’t be there forever.

With college on the horizon, Dintino is making sure her grades will get her into the school she wants to go to.

“Making sure my grades are at the point where they should be is hard during sports season. Games and practices take up most of my night on school days because after I’m so tired and exhausted I want to go to bed, but then I remember I have to go to do homework or study for that test,” stated Dintino. “I try to utilize most of my time in school during study halls or free time in classes to get most of my work done, so I don't have to worry about it after.”

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