Attitude is everything in high school sports. Just ask Skyview High School senior Ann Verba.
"I'm the spirited one. I'm very chirpy," Verba said last week when asked what her role with the Skyview girls basketball team was.
"I like to keep the team up and keep them positive. I like to motivate everyone and keep everyone going."
Just how important is a positive attitude? Anyone in the Skyview gym for Saturday's battle with Kenai Central could have spotted a dozen instances where the Panthers could have collapsed emotionally. Instead, they gritted all the adversity out for a key double-overtime victory against a Region III/4A opponent.
"She's got to be the chirpiest person I know," said teammate Christina Colvin. "That's the only word I know to describe how she is -- chirpy. She knows how to have fun, but she also knows how to get down to business."
Ironically, Skyview coach Wade Marcuson said it was Verba who was down on herself after missing an open shot in overtime.
"It was one of those shots that goes in and out," Marcuson said. "It probably wasn't the best time to pull the trigger, but I told Ann, if there's anyone I want shooting that shot, it's her. She practices that shot every night."
All chirping aside, Verba has become an integral part of the Skyview team, providing the punch from the perimeter for the Panthers offense. And it's the combination of a great work ethic and the intuitive ability to know when it's time to laugh that has made Verba an indispensable member of the team.
"She has a bubbly personality, she's always in good spirits, yet she's one of my hardest workers on the floor," Marcuson said. "She was my manager for football, and I could list several items to do and know they were going to get done. That carries over to the style she plays on the floor. She works hard in the gym and spends a lot of time working on the things she needs to improve. ... Her work ethic gets her a lot of places where others would be left behind."
One of those places just happens to be shooting from the perimeter for the Panthers.
"We try to get her open every play," Colvin said. "She's got a great, natural shot -- the best on the team."
Verba said she began her basketball career in seventh grade on an intramural squad, and was playing with the competitive team by eighth grade. Developing a good jump shot was a necessity as she naturally gravitated toward her wing position, which she now plays for the Panthers.
"I'm too small to play in the post, but I like to shoot the 3s," Verba said. "I always like to run a good play with my teammates. The pick-and-roll is my favorite."
While Verba is happy to shoot from beyond the arc, she's also thrilled if her play opens up a shot for a teammate.
"There's a lot of 3-point talent on our team. All of us like to shoot the ball," Verba said.
"She's one of the five I have on the floor when we need it, but she's also team-oriented," Marcuson said. "In games where there've been matchups and I didn't start her, she's understanding of her team role and the team concept, and when she goes out there, she gives you the best minutes she can."
Verba said she has plenty of encouragement to take her shots, from coaches telling her to shoot more, to her father, Steve, giving her pointers after a game.
"He was a basketball player growing up, and he likes to show me some technique," Verba said.
Verba said she'd like to break the Skyview record of 3-pointers in a game -- six -- before she graduates this year.
"I'm halfway there -- I got three in one game," Verba said.
Verba also plays soccer for the Panthers, lining up predominantly in the midfield, but pushing forward occasionally as well.
"I just like being outside, and being involved in sports keeps me motivated," Verba said.
Verba admitted the extra motivation is important as graduation approaches and "senioritus" begins to set in, though she said she still loves getting to school every morning.
School is going just fine for Verba, too. She's treasurer of the National Honor Society and president of Skyview's student body. Verba said social studies has been her favorite subject, thanks to the inspiration provided by Skyview teacher and Soldotna mayor Dave Carey.
Verba plans to major in nursing next fall at Mount Marty College in South Dakota where her mother, Marlys, is an alumna. Eventually, she'd like to become a pediatrician.
Verba already is a certified nursing assistant and works at Heritage Place nursing home in Soldotna in her spare time.
Verba said her job at Heritage entails helping people there with daily tasks, as well as just being there to listen.
"It gives them someone to talk to -- their stories are so funny," Verba said. "It's been a cool experience to work there."
Verba is the youngest of seven siblings, though she said she's the only one to have inherited the basketball bug from her father.
Verba also enjoys snowmachining and fishing, both activities she often does with her father.
"Since my dad owns a snowmachine shop, I get to go play in the powder -- if there is any," Verba said, though she added that she's missed out on the weekend snowmachine trips over the past two years because of her commitment to Skyview athletics.
Of course, with this winter's weather, Verba hasn't been missing much by focusing her attention on the hardcourt. The Panthers have been playing well this season under first-year coach Marcuson, and Verba said that getting to play for a new coach has been rewarding.
"It's hard having a new coach that doesn't know our athletes. We've had to come in and start from scratch," Verba said. "He's very motivating, and he's not afraid to goof around with us. Plus, I like to connect out of the gym. He lets me know what I need to work on, and what I'm doing well. That keeps my confidence up."
And confident players generally net good results.
"This season has been a blast," Verba said. "Since the team was together last year, with no seniors, we've come together pretty good this year.
"It's fun winning, especially when we win by 40 points."
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