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Putnam County junior Taylor Pettit (right) dribbles up court as classmates Venessa Voss (No. 55) and Stephanie Wilson run with her. The PC junior class has led a turnaround of the female athletic programs at the school. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
GRANVILLE — During the 2009-10 school year, Putnam County went 4-26-1 in volleyball, 1-25 in girls basketball, 6-25 in softball and didn’t even have a girls golf program.
Enter the Class of 2014.
The now juniors have led a turnaround of female athletics at Putnam County. They sparked the creation of a girls golf program and led the team to its first-ever sectional berth this fall.
They helped the volleyball team to a 15-14-2 record — it’s first winning season since 2004.
They are the key components on the girls basketball squad that is 19-4 — which is more wins than PC had from 2009-12 combined — and is the No. 1 seed in the Class 1A Midland Regional.
And last spring they were the core of the softball team that went 21-12 and advanced to a Class 1A sectional championship game — winning the program’s first regional since 2007 along the way.
“They are a great group of girls. The whole school has rallied behind them,” Putnam County athletic director Dave Garcia said. “It’s great to see them having this type of success because I know these girls play sports 12 months out of the year. Seeing all these girls play multiple sports is rare. Putnam County has a great tradition that these girls have helped bring back up to one of the best in the area.”
Carly Gonet, Taylor Pettit and Stephanie Wilson — the three-sport athletes in the class along with Shelby Yepsen — credit their success to their experience with each other and their early experience at the varsity level.
The group started playing traveling softball together when they were 12 and played volleyball, basketball and softball at Putnam County Junior High together beginning in fifth grade.
“We know how to play with each other,” Wilson said.
After plenty of success in junior high — they won a basketball regional in seventh grade and claimed an IESA state softball championship as eighth graders — they were brought up to the PCHS varsity as freshmen in some sports and by sophomore year in others.
“I think the experience as freshmen and sophomores (has helped us),” Gonet said. “We’ve been at the bottom and now we are finally getting up to the top. … I think (taking lumps on varsity as underclassmen) has made us tougher.”
First-year PC varsity basketball coach James Barnett, who took the job in part because he knew how talented the junior class was after coaching them in junior high, agreed the varsity experience is paying off.
“The last two years kind of getting thrown into the fire like they did I think taught them a little bit about the losing side of the game as well,” said Barnett, whose squad is one win shy of the program’s first 20-win season since 1982-83. “It’s important to know how to lose because then you learn how to win. It’s part of the progression of the game. It’s not a bad thing to lose. Nobody wants to lose, but when you do lose, you find the true character of somebody and find out who wants to work their tail off and become better individually and become better as a team.”
PC’s Class of 2014 is not content with its early success. They want to be even better.
Gonet and Wilson — who play golf, basketball and softball — hope to reach a sectional in all three sports this year.
That would mean winning the school’s first girls basketball regional since 1983-84 and capturing back-to-back softball regional titles for the first time since 1998-99.
“Knowing it wasn’t the best before and that we’ve been able to change it, I think it’s made us even better,” Gonet said. “It makes us want to be better and makes us want to keep going.
“We have high expectations. We know we can do it. It’s just getting there. … I think we’re just getting started.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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