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Star players shine on the court

Junior outside hitter Olivia Mediano attempts to direct her team during a Wildcat home game. 
Orion stock image.
Junior outside hitter Olivia Mediano attempts to direct her team during a Wildcat home game. Orion stock image.

No single athlete can represent an entire team, but the players that hit game-winning shots or snag the final kill seem to stand above the rest.

The Chico State athletic department is no stranger to greatness with dominant performances in the cross country, basketball, soccer and volleyball teams this year. Among each of the sports, a player has chosen to step forward and lead the team.

Junior guard of the women’s basketball team Whitney Branham has proven herself to be a strong and capable leader through her individual play on the court. As a starter in nearly every game last season, she averaged about 11 points per game.

The choice to lead by her in-game play rather than act as a second coach has benefitted her as a leader, according to Branham.

Whitney Branham shoots free throws during a Wildcat home game. Photo credit: Jacob Auby

“I do feel like a leader, although I’m not the most vocal on the team,” Branham said. “I think I lead by example in how hard I work and the effort that I put in every day.”

While the women’s basketball team has a strong leader in Branham, the men’s basketball team had multiple leaders on and off the court.

Last season, the team posted a 22-7 record to become the CCAA champions for the second straight season and the third time in the last five years.

A critical part of the team’s success was the play of senior guard Robert Duncan who scored 394 points last season and averaged 15.2 per game.

Duncan Outbound.jpg
Senior guard Robert Duncan bounces the ball out of bounds during a Wildcat scrimmage game. Photo credit: Jordan Jarrell

“I definitely feel like a leader being that I am an upperclassman,” Duncan said. “I feel like Jalen, Corey, Isaiah and I are all leading as a unit.”

The volleyball team is another that’s dominating on the court with a 21-6 overall season record. Junior outside hitter Olivia Mediano has been voted captain for the last two years.

Olivia Mediano prepares to receive a serve during a Wildcat home game. Orion stock image.

As a scoring leader for the team with 335 kills this season, Mediano said that she felt deserving of her title as captain.

“Yes, I think because I have a good knowledge of the game and it’s easy to lead a team that’s willing to put in the work to improve,” Mediano said.

While leading a team through its successes can be rewarding, it can also be fairly difficult to get through the losses and rough patches that can happen throughout a season, according to Branham.

The women’s basketball team suffered a loss to the Dominican University of California Nov. 11. Branham said that she thinks the recent loss could hurt the team’s mentality and that as a leader she is wary of morale.

“I think my ability to perform well not only has an impact on me but the entire team,” Branham said. “That’s why it’s so important for me to support and lift my teammates up so they can give 150 percent.”

Unlike Branham, Mediano sees herself as a role model for the team but also felt that a loss was a team effort and had to be treated as one.

“I think we win as a team or lose as a team, it never falls solely on one person,” Mediano said. “I believe that every person, whether they are on the court or on the bench, plays a huge role in the success of this team.”

Although Duncan is a scoring leader on the team and a veteran Wildcat, he said when having a bad night, the team always shows support.

“I don’t believe that the success of our team falls solely on me,” Duncan said. “We have so many weapons that any night, any guy has the opportunity to step up.”

Although basketball is just beginning its season, the reliance on the team’s leaders to propel them to the next level is a trend across each sport. With the volleyball team entering the CCAA Championship Tournament Nov. 17, players like Mediano will be important to the team’s success in their post season.

Cydney Nance can be reached at [email protected] or @CydneyNa on Twitter.

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