BERLIN CENTER — Although her softball roots run deep in her family, Western Reserve senior Alyssa Serensky will play basketball next fall at Bethany College.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but she feels it’s the right one. The Blue Devils shooting guard is having a blast in her final high school varsity season on the court.
“I really love playing for coach [Steve] Miller and coach [Jeff] Brogan,” she said. “I just really don’t want it to end.”
After a 52-40 loss to Cornerstone Christian to open the season, the Blue Devils have rattled off eight straight wins.
When she first started dribbling in a church program as a second-grader, Serensky wasn’t very good, she admits. Basketball taught her that she could improve with hard work.
“I learned that if I actually worked at it, I could be good,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve grown fond of the sport.”
Serensky credits Miller (varsity head coach) and Brogan (junior varsity coach), saying "they’ve always pushed me to be my best.”
Last season, Western Reserve and McDonald were the co-favorites to compete for the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference crown. McDonald won the title by winning twice in the regular season. Both games were close.
But in the third game in the Division IV district final at Mineral Ridge High School, Western Reserve defeated McDonald, 46-39, to earn the school’s third regional berth in six seasons.
“We all wanted that championship so badly,” Serensky said. “We knew what was on the line.”
She called the win “unbelievable — I loved it. That is one of my most favorite memories. I’ve always dreamed of being a district champion.”
The Blue Devils lost to Dalton in the regional semifinals at Massillon Perry. Serensky recalls walking out for warm-ups in the huge gymnasium as being “very nerve-wracking. [None] of us were used to that atmosphere, how many people were there.
“It was just a much bigger gym than what we are used to.”
This season, many observers feel that Western Reserve is the team to beat.
“They are probably the class act of our league,” Sebring coach Sam Mathias said after a recent 96-28 loss to Western Reserve. “They’ve got athletes at all five positions.”
Serensky is one of four seniors on the team. Brooke Morris starts at center. Laura Sigworth has returned to action after suffering a dislocated thumb, but Emma Heater is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Powering the Blue Devils are junior forwards Danielle Vuletich and Olivia Pater, and point guard Kennedy Miller.
“Off the bench, they have even more [talent],” Mathias said. “They’ve got height, guards that can shoot — they are a complete team.”
Serensky said she feels they are wearing targets each time they play.
“I feel everyone is out to beat us, so that just puts more pressure on us to go out every night and show up,” she said.
Serensky was a point guard in middle school. She said it didn’t take long to decide “that’s not for me — I’m a shooting guard.”
Serensky most likely will graduate with eight varsity letters — four each in basketball and softball.
Asked if this year’s squad is the best he’s coached, Miller said, “I think they can be — it’s still early in the year.
“Last year was our best team,” Miller said of the 22-win Blue Devils. “Not just statistically — I could tell the balance that we had inside, outside, full-court, half-court defensively.
“Having five starters back and a lot of girls in the rotation, this team should be the best team in school history,” Miller said. Will it be?
"I don’t know. We’re hoping so.”
Joe Serensky, her grandfather, is the Western Reserve softball head coach. Katie (Tieche) Serensky, her mother, is the junior varsity coach. She was a standout player for Canfield High School and played in college.
“My Dad [Joe] was really good at baseball,” she added.
Serensky said she had decided by her sophomore year that basketball was the sport she’d like to play beyond high school.
She felt there was some family pressure to pursue softball. She was pleased when her choice of basketball was accepted.
Science is one of her favorite subjects. English is the other, though she admits she “hates reading books, but I’m good at writing papers.”
Kriss Yeager, her sixth-grade science and history teacher, made a big impact on her as a student.
“She is probably one of the most organized teachers at our school,” Serensky said. “She always works hard.”
What Serensky likes about Bethany is “mostly how small” it is.
“I’m used to school being so small, so I wanted to keep [it similar],” she said, adding she values teachers and students having a close relationship. “And I really like the basketball team. I love their coaches.
“They remind me a lot about coach Miller and coach Brogan.”
Her plan is to prepare to study veterinary science.
“I want to be a horse vet because I’ve always grown up around horses,” Serensky said. “They’re my favorite.
“I’ve always loved animals,” she said. “Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to be a vet. That’s never really changed.”
Serensky said she’s loving this season so much that it sometimes puts her on edge.
“I don’t want it to end — I’m trying to have the most fun that I can,” she said.