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Naperville Central's Laura Dierking (left) and Maine South's Hailey Schoneman (45) battle for a loose ball during the fourth quarter of their championship game at 30th Annual Charger Classic at Dundee Crown High School in Carpentersville Saturday. Decembe
Before each season, Maine South girls basketball coach Mark Smith and his staff try to sit down and have an honest conversation with each player regarding the individual’s role within the program.
At the beginning of last season, Smith met with Hailey Schoneman, Claire Raphael and Erin Kieny and delivered a similar message to each player.
Smith told the trio, in essence, that while they weren’t likely to see the court very often because of the number of players returning from the 2010-2011 squad that finished third in Class 4A, they would be vital to the team’s success this season.
The trio embraced that message and continued to work hard, staying positive while seeing little playing time.
Schoneman, Raphael and Kieny consistently challenged themselves against the team’s best players — Schoneman has competed against Illinois signee Jacqui Grant in practice and Raphael has done the same with Saint Louis signee Regan Carmichael — and have become vital pieces for the Sun-Times’ No. 12-ranked team.
“Last year, playing against those great players made me so much better and prepared me better for this year,” said Kieny, a senior. “We knew that sitting on the bench was what we had to do. We were fine with it because we knew that this is the position we would be in this year, with me and Hailey starting and Claire the first one off the bench.”
Schoneman, Raphael and Kieny, who call themselves “The Three Musketeers,” have fit into the Hawks’ rotation seamlessly this season.
Schoneman, a junior, has benefited from playing alongside Grant, one of the state’s top post players. Schoneman, a 6-foot power forward, scored a career-high 18 points in a win over Fenwick en route to the team’s Dundee-Crown Charger Classic title on Dec. 29.
Raphael, a senior who provides a spark off the bench and solid point guard play when Carmichael leaves the game, scored five points in overtime of the Charger Classic’s championship game against Naperville Central.
Kieny starts at small forward and is a selfless presence in Maine South’s starting lineup. She does all the little things — like play defense and makes quality passes to help Grant, Carmichael and senior Mackenzie Duffy score — needed to make a talented team run smoothly.
“I call Erin the glue,” Smith said. “When you put a whole bunch of teenagers all together, she’s somebody that’s just so mellow and very level-headed. Everybody respects her. When she speaks, people listen to her. On the floor, that translates into chemistry and leadership. She’s never concerned about scoring points; it’s all about team baskets.”
The Musketeers are making an impact outside of games, too.
There have been instances this season when Raphael has seen teammates get frustrated because of their lack of playing time.
The senior has responded by providing advice and proof that, sometimes, it takes players a full season to earn their place in Maine South’s rotation.
“I try to tell the other girls, if I see someone whose head is down because they either made a bad play or they’re not getting in the game, ‘Don’t worry about it. Go practice and prove to yourself and to the coaches that you deserve to go in,’ ” Raphael said. “I think a lot of them have been doing that ... which is awesome and I love it.”~.