5 Seniors, 1 Team: Leadership On and Off The Court

Photo by Ursinus Athletics

Article by Marie Sykes <masykes@ursinus.edu>

When sitting down with the five women’s basketball seniors, it was clear how tight of a bond they had, with each of them recounting memories and bouncing off of each other’s responses. Get to know Ursinus seniors Natalie Mehl, Sarah Dilello, Maria D’aulerio, Ali Lisanti, and Kelly Grant – who all play guard, except for Grant who plays point guard.

When asked about entering their senior season, Mehl and Grant called it  “bittersweet.” “It’s exciting and we want to make the most out of it while also doing what we can to make everyone better,” Lisanti said. “The goal is as seniors to set these girls up for a successful future in the program and to guide them to know what they’re capable of,” Mehl continued.

It’s clear the team works very hard, but what does this look like behind the scenes? Dilello told us “we don’t really have an off-season.” “It’s an all-year grind,” Grant added. But part of what gets them through it is the team. “We’re all best friends,” Grant said. “It can be really, really hard, but we’re really good at picking each other up at those times …. Part of the culture is learning how to appreciate it together.”

Beyond their long season,  one particular challenge they faced was a coaching change two years ago. “It’s something that you never think is going to happen to you until it does,” Dilello said, “it became a part of our culture to support each other through that.” That same year, Mehl transferred to Ursinus from McDaniel halfway through their season. “These four helped guide me especially,” she said. Injuries are another major challenge they face. “Learning how to use your support system when you’re injured,” Dilello told us, is a major part of being on the team. Embodying that “‘we over me’ mentality,” Lisanti told us, is a big deal. Especially considering how only five players are on the court at a time but they “have twenty girls on our team… and it’s a challenge in itself, but everyone seems to be doing pretty well identifying their roles on the team.”

The team culture was a recurring theme throughout the interview. D’aulerio defined it in itself that their “core values are grit, gratitude, family, accountability, and passion” and that “each of those values strengthens our team as a whole. We are one big family and we play for each other all the time.”

Their favorite team memories consist mainly from the time they get to spend with each other over winter break. “It’s a good time with a lot of team bonding,” D’aulerio said. “It’s a time for our friendships to really blossom.” They also mentioned notable wins, such as their first win with the new coach against Muhlenberg. They also mentioned notable wins against Haverford and McDaniel, but also that the team played at the Palestra against the University of Pennsylvania as sophomores, which was even on ESPN+. The Palestra is the oldest major college arena in operation.

When asked about team traditions, they said that they end every practice with a half-court shot. Another tradition is their Halloween event they run every year. They volunteer with the Spring Valley YMCA and their Shooting Stars program, a sports league for children of all abilities.

When asked about advice for future women on the team, Dilello said that “it goes by quicker than you think. Enjoy every day and before you know it it’ll be your senior year.” D’aulerio advised that “the important part while working hard every day, remember why you started in the first place and try your best for the team.” Mehl ended by telling future players to “[play] for the little girl who fell in love with the sport…. We’re blessed to be able to play in college.” The team played their first game on Wednesday, November 8, but you can catch their next game this Monday at 7:30 when they play against Penn State Brandywine. Stay up to date with them on Instagram @ursinuswbb.