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Heartland Gatekeeper

February 14, 2011


 
Abby Mulder in action


Coach Senechal instructs his team during a time out


Lauren Pfeiffer inbounds a pass


Concordia Lady Mustangs playing basketball God’s way

by Lee Warren/Heartland Gatekeeper

The final regular season game of the year last Thursday night for the Concordia High School girls basketball team came with a message from senior guard Lauren Pfeiffer. Before the game, she read 1 Corinthians 15:57 to the team: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“We had been kind of in a place where we were concerned with winning,” Pfeiffer said. “Things just didn’t really feel like they were going very well and so I read this verse [in a Bible study] and I really felt like God wanted me to share it with the girls. I told them no matter what happens the rest of the season, that we’re always going to have victory in Christ. We just need to stand firm.”

The team came out of the locker room and shot well, going on to win 64-36 against Brownell-Talbot at home. Pfeiffer led the team with 17 points, including three consecutive 3-pointers in the first half. The Concordia Lady Mustangs are 16-5, ranked #8 in C-1 play and they head to sub-districts where they hope to make a deep run in the postseason. But, as Pfeiffer said, the team is playing for a lot more than winning basketball games.

“First of all, being a Christian school, every year we play for the same reasons,” Coach Marty Senechal said. “We play to glorify God, number one, so kids don’t go out there and play for themselves. And then you play for your teammates number two. Number three would be yourself and anybody else. 

“With that sort of attitude, we just try to get better every year. God has given us some awesome talents and it’s up to us to nurture those. If we were just worried about basketball and trying to win games, we’d be wasting our time. God gives us so many opportunities to grow spiritually through the game of basketball. We try to play hard and play the right way and he’s blessed us with some good basketball players, so we win some games.”

One of those spiritual lessons comes after losing a hard fought battle on the court – as was the case earlier this season when the Lady Mustangs lost a heartbreaker in double overtime to the defending state champion, Bishop Neumann.

“We can tell our kids, ‘That was a really tough loss. Isn’t it great that we’re Christians and we know the rest of the story?’” Senechal said. “In eternity, we win. That’s one of the biggest lessons from sports. In sports, victory is always in doubt. In eternity, it’s not. ”

The team is finding ways to live out their faith on the court. After the starters are announced, they go over to the opposing team’s bench and either shake the hand of one of the coaches or of one of the opposing players. Senechal wants to go even further next season.

“We went down to Lincoln Christian and they had snacks for the opponent in their locker room,” Senechal said. “So, we’re going to start doing that next year, just to be a blessing to our opponents.”

Senechal has been the coach for all eight seasons that the girls varsity basketball program has existed at Concordia. They lost every game they played their first season. But over the next few seasons, as they continued to practice and play hard, they began to see their work pay off. 

Two years ago, the team broke through in Class C-2 and made the state tournament. Since then, they made the jump to Class C-1 and joined the Centennial Conference which includes many of the Christian and Catholic schools in the region.

As they head into sub-district play, the team’s four seniors – Abby Mulder, Ashley Kuntz, Andrea Holmes and Pfeiffer – know that, short of winning the state championship, their next loss will probably be their last (unless they get a wildcard to the state tournament), so they are savoring every minute they can spend together on and off the court. 

The players don’t wait for official team devotions, even though they have them. The girls get together on their own and do devotions. And after one tough loss this season, they held a closed-door team meeting without any staff members present to reorient themselves so they could move on and play positively. 

“The girls are pretty drama free, so they accept what we [seniors] have to say,” said Kuntz, who plans to play collegiately next season at Concordia University in Seward on a scholarship. “We push each other and we work hard together.” 

“Our entire team has such a great relationship,” Mulder said. “We know that we can come to each other whenever we need to. We know that we pray for each other. Those relationships are awesome and they are something I will miss so much.”

Mulder missed a portion of her sophomore year with a knee injury and subsequent surgery, followed by 10 months of physical therapy. After she came back she injured her other knee and had to endure more surgery, more therapy and more time on the sidelines.  

She had no plans to play collegiate basketball, so she could have decided to not play her senior season. She wrestled with God in prayer and felt a release from him. She had fought too hard and the team had been through so many trials – including rallying around one teammate whose mom had a bout with cancer last season – to not come back.  

She writes Philippians 4:13 on one of her knee braces, and it serves as a reminder that believers really can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. She is not a starter, but she shows the same fighting spirit coming off the bench as she did during her rehab stints. 

“Even if I don’t start, I still contribute to the team – whether or not I am on the court,” Mulder said. “The bench still plays a huge part in the role of winning and losing.” 

Abby might not be a star player, but she is star teammate. Senechal says her perseverance motivates the entire team because she never gave up. Instead, he says, she grew closer to Christ.

The Lady Mustangs are the number one seed in their sub-district as they head to sub-districts. If they win on Tuesday, Feb. 15, they will play again on Friday, Feb 18. If they win both games, they will move on to districts the following week. If they survive districts, they will have a shot at the state tournament. †

Lee Warren has written hundreds of articles for various publications and has five non-fiction books in print. If you'd like to read more of his work, visit www.leewarren.info.
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