Editor’s note: Viva Loudoun high school intern Sarah Smith wrote the following article for the Stone Bridge High School “The Bulldog Tribute” and submitted it to the 2014 Virginia High School League Basketball Feature Writing contest where it received first prize and was reprinted in the VHSL state championship basketball program. Congratulations to Sarah. We hope you enjoy the article — Dan Sousa, Viva Editor
By Sarah Smith
The Bulldog Tribune
Stone Bridge High School
The cheers of the fans muffle the ringing of the buzzer and the hollow bounce of the basketball against the waxed gym floor. Across from the home section is a bench full of girls watching the game, and for several weeks of her fourth year on varsity, senior Megan Della Penna was on that bench too.
“I started playing basketball in fourth grade,” senior Megan Della Penna said. “Ever since then, it’s been a huge part of my life. I love being out on the court and interacting with my teammates. There really aren’t many things that make me as happy as playing basketball does.”
Della Penna has been a member of the girls’ varsity basketball team for four years, and is also a member of the girls’ varsity soccer team. During the spring of her junior year, she tore her ACL, leaving her on the bench as she started the several months of her rehabilitation process.
“It was extremely hard not being able to play in the beginning of the basketball season,” Della Penna said. “Being a senior, I wanted to take on a leadership role and I felt like I couldn’t do that from the bench. Also, I knew that I could go out there and contribute to the team and help them win.”
However, Della Penna didn’t let her injury stop her from being a leader; she showed her dedication and kept working until she was cleared to play.
“I think she really was a leader to her team,” athletic director Dave Hembach said. “She put a lot of hard work into physical therapy and recovering, and how she supported her team from the sidelines. I think that right there can inspire a lot of kids.”
Her recovery process wasn’t always an easy one, but her coaches and teammates agree that she was always hopeful and a dedicated player.
“It was definitely a very scary and frustrating time for her,” head coach of the girls’ varsity basketball team Dana Robinson said. “She had complications during her recovery like blood clots, and during her first few games back she had lost some of her stamina from before. I saw her overcome a lot mentally and physically.”
After eight months of physical therapy, and eight weeks of not being able to participate, Della Penna was cleared to play.
“I was more than ready to get back on the court after going through physical therapy,” Della Penna said. “I worked really hard during my recovery. Obviously it was really scary when I first came back, but I just tried not to think about it too much and let things happen naturally.”
Della Penna came back strong, using her leadership values and determination along the way.
“She’s our number one athlete,” Ms. Robinson said. “Even after rehabilitation, she’s our leading scorer. She dominates the team. All of the girls see the difference when she’s on the court.”
One of the things that helped Della Penna on her road to recovery was her goal of becoming a leader and a role model for her teammates; she wanted to be someone they could look up to.
“As the only senior that’s been on the team all four years, I knew I would have to step up as a leader and set an example for the new players,” Della Penna said. “I’ve learned a lot since freshman year and passing on my experiences is really important to me. If players start to get down on themselves, I try to encourage them and make sure they keep their heads in the game.”
Regardless of whether she was on the court or on the bench, Della Penna proved that she was committed to being a leader a teammate.
“Megan works hard at both basketball and soccer,” Mr. Hembach said. “She just never gives up.”