Athlete of the Week – June 19: Sydney Whitaker

Deep Run, girls' lacrosse
Rachel Haslip, head coach of the Deep Run girls' lacrosse team, handed each of her players a puzzle piece one day after practice. Each piece had the girl's name written on it. When the girls assembled the puzzle, they saw the word that Haslip had emphasized all season long: one.

One, as in one team one unit, one goal, was the theme of this year's team. The team reached the state tournament, where it fell in the semi- finals to the eventual state champions, Stonebridge.

The message of unity had been issued by Haslip, and the team bought in, largely due to the skill and leadership of junior captain Sydney Whitaker. Whitaker laughed when describing the puzzle demonstration.

"At first we all thought it read Eno, "she said. But she also took seriously Haslip's focus on unity.

"Because it's high school, girl sometimes don't get along as well as a set should, "she said. "But everyone on her team got along. The team is all friends."

Whitaker said that going into the season she knew that they were going to go far because of the level of commitment throughout the team. That commitment was evidenced early in the season when the team decided to extend two-a-day practices beyond the preseason. The team rose early in the morning on Fridays to meet with a strength and conditioning coach for pre-dawn workout.

Whitaker took her role as captain seriously. She said she is not hesitant to yell, but said that "it is good yelling, not mean yelling. I have a lot of energy."

That energy proved to be of crucial importance after Deep Run's second game against Freeman. Freeman, which Whitaker described as her team's most bitter rival, had embarrassed Deep Run, winning by nine goals. Whitaker (who has such strong feelings about Freeman that she maintains her focus against lesser teams by "treating every game like it's Freeman") said that the defeat was the low point of the season. What initially broke the team's spirit, however, became a pivotal moment in the season.

"It motivated everyone to play harder and work better," Whitaker said. "This one game does not define us."

Deep Run went on to beat Freeman in the district tournament, which felt "very, very good," according to Whitaker.

The junior scored 74 times this season, along with 23 assists. She was selected as the Conference 11 Player of the Year as well as the 5A South Regional Player of the Year.

The theme of "one" was exemplified by not only Sydney, but also by her younger sister, Morgan Whitaker. Morgan tore her meniscus and ACL during basketball season, but she was still officially on the lacrosse team. Morgan attended every practice even though she was hobbled by injury and worked on her ball handling skills.

Sydney and Morgan will have one more year playing together before Sydney heads off to University of Michigan, where she has committed to play lacrosse after graduating from Deep Run.

Henrico Business Bulletin Board

May 2017

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The Latin Ballet of Virginia will present “MOMO” at 7 p.m. June 2 and at 2 p.m. June 3-4 at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. Based on the fantasy novel by Michael Ende (author of “The NeverEnding Story”), “MOMO” is about a little girl who saves the world from the time thieves by her special ability to listen. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. For details and tickets, call 356-3876 or visit Full text

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