As a freshman and a sophomore, Grace Berger of Sacred Heart Academy wasn’t trying to prove much as an underclassman. She was like a sponge, absorbing all of the basketball knowledge and insight from upperclassmen and her head coach Donna Moir. And when her number was called, she considered it a gracious opportunity when she stepped on the court.
Now that she has gotten older, she’s grown in maturity, now filling the shoes of those who preceded her. She’s determined this season to reach and achieve team goals – that is winning a state championship.
Her determination to win comes from the heavy responsibilities she has now as a go-to leader on the team. She once asked questions to juniors and seniors, but now she is on the other side, answering them for younger teammates who glean from her basketball acumen.
“They all look up to you because I know I looked up to them when I was a freshman and sophomore, so I’m just trying to be a good role model,” says Berger. “I am trying to show the younger kids the ropes just as the upperclassmen did when I first got here.”
Berger and three other juniors have played varsity for three years, and they’ve learned that hard work and good attitudes take you a long way in the Valkyries’ program. In her first two years playing varsity, she expressed the pain of losing at the end of the season, and now she is rallying the troops to work hard so they don’t relive past feelings.
She’s a leader who may not say much, but speaks volumes in her play and how she carries herself on the basketball court. In a close, nail-biting game, you can expect No. 34 to rise up and graciously exude her stellar abilities when emotions are high and palms get sweaty.
“When it’s a close score and we need a play, Grace brings it,” says Head Coach Donna Moir. “She brings a lot of intensity and focus, and you can see the difference once it is game day. She gets amped and excited for the game. The bigger the game, the more focused she is.”
Even as the leading scorer on the team at 13.7 points a game, stats don’t carry much weight for a young lady who would rather represent the name on the front of her jersey and to be joined with her teammates to relish the moments of success and victory.
“You can just tell Grace’s maturity out on the court,” Moir adds. “She has never been a person who cares about how many points she scores or anything like that, and she has the respect of her teammates. She is quiet but she has a way of looking at kids and saying thanks for that pass or good job. It’s been fun to watch her develop.”
When she’s not putting in work on the hardwood, she’s putting in work in the classroom, working diligently as a student athlete. She describes herself as one who “works hard in everything I do, and I think sports have taught me how to do that, to work hard and be the best that I can be, and pushing myself.”
And in all the lessons she has listened to from her coach, she says she learned to not get too high after wins and not get too low after losses but to get better every practice so that at the end of the season, she can be the very best she can be.
Berger will cherish all that she has gained and learned at Sacred Heart in her final two seasons. She’s committed to Indiana University, and after visiting a lot of colleges, she felt good about IU, loving both the coaches and the school. Since committing, Coach Moir says Berger’s been able to play more relaxed as she’s less focused on impressing college scouts.
“She’s put a lot of time in her game and she has always been a team-first player. I think she’s freed up a little bit, to where she can just kind of relax. And after her commitment, she seems more relaxed on the court because she’s not worried about who’s coming to watch her and how she has to perform. So you see a more relaxed player because everything isn’t ‘I have to be on all the time.’ And I think that’s been fun to watch.” VT