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  • Matt Ondesko

On top of her game

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

You never know what a person might be going through on a daily basis. You don’t what they daily struggles might be for them. You don’t know if a family member is going through something terrible.

All you might see is how an athlete steps on the court and performs at their best night in and night out. It’s a testament to the type of athlete that they are. They are able to block out all the outside noise and just do their job to the bets of the abilities. They may eve use what is going on personally as motivation for the season.

St. Mary’s High School basketball player Ava Achtyl knew she needed to step up last sea on It was her junior year, and a year that she wanted to be a bigger presence in the post for the Lancers. She achieved her goal as St. Mary’s was a team to be recon with in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association.

What a lot of people might now have know was that Achtyl was having a great season despite knowing that her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer during the season. Not any easy thing to comprehend, Achtyl still went out there every night and gave her team a chance to win.

Her teammates where they to support her as well during one of the most difficult times in her young life. The support made that bond even tiger within in the St. Mary’s basketball family.

“After losing our post last year, I felt that I needed to step up this year as our primary post player,” stated Achtyl. “It was an emotional year for me as my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer mid season. I was fortunate enough to have a great support system with teammates and coaches who were there for me.”

Despite the personal matters that were going, Achtyl still had a great season. She capped off an amazing junior year by going off against Sacred Heart, one of the best teams in the league. Achtyl knew she needed to be big in the game against the Sharks, and all-everything Siobhan Ryan.

Ryan is one of the best basketball player in Western New York and Achtyl was up to the task. Achtyl had a dominating performance going for a double-double. That type of performance opened some eyes around the league - and WNY.

“I knew going into the game, it was going to be tough...Siobhan Ryan is a great player and  hard to stop,” stated Achtyl. “I knew that they didn't have a strong post presence, and Siobhan was going to be guarding Shay Ciezki for  most of the game. I was able to take advantage of that and my teammates were able to get me the ball.”

Big games are nothing knew for Achtyl. She loves playing against the teams that like to play physical. She has worked hard with her AAU coach Darren Fenn, who was a standout in high school and college, on her game.

She has taken what he has taught her and now applies it to her game.

“I love playing talented teams especially when they have strong bigs I love the physicality of the game underneath. When you have two strong bigs bouncing off of each other, that's what makes you better,” stated Achtyl. “I hope to improve on expanding my range during this off season. I’m playing on XGen Elite’s AAU team. I’m fortunate that Darren Fenn is my coach and I will take advantage of his knowledge of the game.”

She hopes all the work she is putting in will pay off during her senior year, if there is a season. Two solid seasons will hopefully get the attention of college coaches as she is looking to keep playing the game that she loves at the next level.

If there is one thing that you will never see Achtyl during a game is look in the stands. She doesn’t care who is watching her as long as she is playing her game to the best of her abilities. This includes college coaches.

“I'm excited about my senior year. I have been working with Darren Fenn and hitting the weights to improve my game. I've also been focusing on my outside shot for next season,” stated Achtyl. “When I’m playing the game, fortunately I tend to forget who is watching.”

With the Lancers losing some key players from last season, Achtyl will be looked upon to give that extra leadership. She got a taste of being a leader last season, as a junior, but will be expected to step up more this year is the Lancers are to take care of business in the MMA.

Being down on the post, Achtyl has a knack for the seeing the game at a different pace, and level, than other people. She was able to communicate to her team about cuts and screens that were about to happen.

With the loss of two starters, Achtyl knows she will be leaned upon to contribute both offensively and defensively.

“Playing underneath I can see the whole court and it was easy for me to communicate with my teammates about screens and cuts that they weren’t able to see coming,” stated Achtyl. “We have had a strong team the last three years. Our two starting seniors, Lauren Nawojski and Parris Maroney, will definitely be missed. Achieving that success should attract prospective student athletes to attend SMHS.”


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