Sometimes maligned, or bypassed by athletes who went to other schools to play on better teams, Lely’s sports future is looking up.
Since January, the Trojans have been more than competitive.
The volleyball team won its district and went to the regional semifinals.
For its success the Naples Daily News chose Mary Gibler Player of the Year and Daniel Selvey Coach of the Year.
The basketball team fought its way to a second-place finish in the district and played in a regional game.
Lely’s Claudel Alix went to the state wrestling championships at 220 pounds.
The softball team got healthy and won the district playoffs and played in a regional game.
The baseball team came together to finish second in its district and play in a regional game.
The girls tennis team won a district title for the third straight season.
The girls track team continued to soar, winning the CCAC Conference, district and regional championships.
Volleyball coach Daniel Selvey gave some insights on the team’s success.
“Continuity of the coaching staff, a consistent coaching philosophy and hard work of the players and their willingness to buy into the philosophy made a difference as the team broke nearly every single school record, including number of wins and winning percentage, previously set in 2010. They beat rival Naples High twice for the first time in 16 years.
Winning the district championship and advancing to the regional semifinals were both firsts for a program that’s been around for more than three decades, Selvey noted.
“While this year will see five seniors graduate, there is still a lot (of talent) returning to the team next fall, and because they have had the chance to observe the seniors lead by example, the potential for this group may be even greater than the 2010 squad,” he said.
Juniors, Mary Gibler and Katie Roche, will each return for their fourth and final season on varsity. Freshman Christy Thorstenson and Navia Penrod saw a good amount of playing time and Selvey likes their athleticism “that will be tough for many teams to match.” Bri Anguilano, Samantha Howard and a trio of freshman will fight for a starting spot.
“For the first time, the varsity team will have greater depth, with quality subs at every position, and a variety of players that are very versatile,: Selvey said.
Basketball coach Ryan Bowen talks about what it has taken for his team to be a success.
“Having success always starts with the student-athletes work ethic and discipline, on and off of the court,” he said. “Our guys had belief in our off-season system and did a ton of work on their own to improve their individual talents.”
Bowen said the kids understand the value of practice and how it is more important than the games.
“They bought into our entire program and their individual role on their team.”
His younger teams, freshman and JV, have had success in great part due to the coaching staff.
“Our coaching staff is one of the best in Southwest Florida,” he said. “They work very hard and are consistent with our players. I know that whatever I ask them to do they will make sure it is done and done the right way.”
He said the incoming freshmen each are better prepared for high school competition because they play for their middle schools and on travel teams.
“Last, but not least, no program will be successful without a supportive administration and that is what we have at Lely,” Bowen said. “It makes all of our jobs that much easier.”
In his second year, baseball coach Eric Maya has seen changes.
“I think that since last year people have looked at the Lely baseball program in a different light,” he said. “Last year we played some very good teams closely and this year we were able to beat some really good teams (Barron Collier and Lehigh).”
He thinks that when teams play Lely today they know the Trojans will battle every time.
“I hope the kids are able to learn from some of the close losses that we had this season and remember what it feels like to win those big games,” he said.
“It has been almost 18 years since Lely baseball has played in a regional game. I think that it is a big step for the program and will give the kids good experience going into next year.”
Girls track coach Nick Young chose senior Lisa Nicolas to talk about the team and her teammates. Her remarks were made before she and team members competed in the Class 3A State Championships on Friday.
“Coach’s approach is to train us to be our best, to make us want it.” Nicolas said. “He works us physically and mentally.”
Each year Nicolas, a team captain, said the team continues to shape tradition.
“The captains set the examples for the younger girls,” she said. “Me, Liciane (St. Jean) and Hannah (Heidenreich) try to give the younger girls something to take with them for the next year. We take pride in leading a really good team.”
Softball coach Jess Millar thinks there are numerous reasons for Lely High School’s success.
“I think the school as a whole has dedicated coaches who are helping instill sound fundamentals in our athletes. These include many paid and volunteer coaches,” she said
There were six softball coaches this season.
“The difference it makes having that many people to work with kids one on one when needed is enormous,” she said. “To have different coaches with various experiences and levels of expertise is so beneficial to student athletes.”
Millar believes that over the last few years there has been a renewed sense of pride and commitment to Lely athletics.
“With enough hard work, out of season work and conditioning, it is possible to continue to experience more and more success in the years to come,” she said. “Having sound youth programs that feed into our schools is also very beneficial. I know many of the coaches here have spent time building relationships with our feeder programs.”
Millar thinks the most important part of the whole equation is commitment by the student athletes.
“Behind that commitment is support from families that instill good values of hard work and commitment in their children,” she said. “I think it is a slow, evolving process. As we increase the work we put into athletics, we experience more success, this in turn creates a greater sense of commitment and more parental support.”
Matt Kuk Lely athletic director, thinks the current success of Lely Athletics can be credited to the dedication of the coaches and student-athletes.
“The coaches have worked tirelessly to establish goals for their programs over the past few years. With all the time and dedication that the coaches and student-athletes give to their sports, it is so rewarding for me to see them lift a trophy or smile after a big victory. Those moments allow student-athletes to realize that all their hard work has paid off and gives coaches something to build on for the future.”