WBK | Lessons Learned For Raggio Prove Hard Work Pays Off
Saint Mary's women's basketball junior forward Sydney Raggio put in the work last summer after a disappointing sophomore year
By: Nadine Masarweh
SMC Athletic Communications Student Assistant
MORAGA, Calif. -- “I have to be a leader, act like a leader, perform like a leader.”
Wise words spoken and lessons learned from Saint Mary’s women’s basketball junior forward Sydney Raggio, who exploded on the scene as a freshman in 2015-16, only to regress as a sophomore.
But after a summer’s worth of high-level intensity training and conditioning, Raggio strives to be the best she can be for the Gaels in her third year on campus.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Her basketball career started when she was a 5-foot, 6-inch fifth grader, while her father and role model immediately saw a successful path in her future more than she did.
“I was playing club soccer for a majority of my childhood as a goalie and then in sixth grade my dad said that I had to tryout for this club (basketball) team in Palo Alto, but I didn't want to play. I was against it. He said I was 5-6, I had to play,” said Raggio. “Of course my dad made me tryout and I fell in love with it. I met the team. I really liked it.”
The San Bruno native finished a successful senior season at St. Ignatius High School as she was named first team all-league while earning the prestigious CalHiSports.com D-II Player of the Year award. Raggio led her squad to nearly 100 wins in four seasons. Basketball became a passion for Raggio as her talent took her to the next level of competition.
COMING TO CAMPUS
“When we first recruited her we knew she had a passion for the game and cared about winning and losing and what she did out on the court,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Paul Thomas. “We knew she could handle the ball for a post player. She had a sense of the game and understood ball and people movement.
“She has this unique skill at being at the right place at the right time. That drew our attention. She is a super good kid and a joy to be around.”
Raggio wasn’t always pegged to be a regular starter. She started 25 of 32 games as a rookie and all 33 of SMC’s games last season, but her first collegiate came a bit differently. It began when Thomas told her just 10 minutes before the 2015-16 season opener at CSUN that she was going to be in the starting lineup.
“I didn't even know I was going to start,” said Raggio. “Coach didn't tell me until minutes before the game. I started and just went out and played. I didn't force anything. I was definitely nervous, but I just went out and played.”
Unexpectedly but not surprising, Raggio scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds in her collegiate debut as a Gael. And just two days later in her home debut, she scored a career-high 26 points and had 10 rebounds versus San Jose State, earning her West Coast Conference Player of the Week honors in her first week of collegiate action. Her impressive start sparked Raggio’s ability to be the team’s leader and go-to player.
“I saw in practice that she was one of those players that was further advanced than what we thought she was going to be,” said Thomas. “I felt as though when she got into our flow and rhythm, she was going to be able to fit right into what we do. Her first game obviously exceeded our expectations, but she has to do that consistently.”
Competing as a college athlete was certainly a new chapter for Raggio as she transitioned from high school to the college game. And as it did in high school each year, she believed her successful freshman season at Saint Mary’s would roll into an even better year as a sophomore. But she struggled as a second-year player in 2016-17. Raggio finished her freshman season averaging 11.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, landing on the WCC All-Freshmen Team. Her freshman season boosted her overall confidence and self-esteem, but heading into her sophomore season it took a tilt when she realized that in order to reach her full potential she needed to put in more effort and time off the court.
“I thought I could go out my sophomore year and be even better than before without doing as much extra work, but that wasn't the case,” said Raggio. “I think I was playing really passive. I was inconsistent last year and I didn't put in as much time outside of practice and individual time, so what was i going to expect?”
Saint Mary’s took a tough loss in overtime against Colorado State in the first round in the 2017 Women’s National Invitational Tournament, but it gave Raggio the realization that in order to become the leader of the team she has to put in extra hours of practice.
"We had a good season (in 2016-17), but I know we could have done so much more as a team,” said Raggio. “This past summer, I stayed in Moraga for two months and lived nearby with some of my teammates. I was here most of the time conditioning with (SMC Strength and Conditioning Coach) Steve (DiLustro) and both of my assistant coaches Allyson (Fasnacht) and Lisa (O’Meara) and improving on the guard position. After Carly (Turner) got hurt, I knew I had to fill that role a little more.”
The loss of senior guard Carly Turner to injury this summer was an additional eye-opener for Raggio. It opened her mentality to grasp that winning games would take extra practice on and off the court to become more well-rounded and contribute everywhere.
Raggio spent the summer on campus working on her position and performance. And that extra effort has already shown through the first half of the season. She already has seven double-doubles on the year and is averaging career highs in points (14.1 ppg) and rebounds (8.6 rpg). The team has also reaped the benefits, winning two more non-conference games than last season and getting off to a 5-1 start in WCC play.
“I think with Syd, it was taking what the coaches said to heart,” said DiLustro. “I think the coaches put her in a position to be a leader, and she was either going to sink or swim with it. You can’t question the work that she has put in. Just knowing that she was on campus all summer long, she put in that time and she put in the work, and she’s reaping the benefits of that now.”
“Sydney is way better,” said Thomas. “She has done a phenomenal job and that has a lot to do with her conditioning. Better conditioning means you can stay focused longer. That is what she has done.”
Work produces results, as proved by the pride Raggio has felt since the start of this season.
“I feel like when I get going, my confidence gets going no matter what play it is, defense or offense. If i am pulling down a bunch of rebounds, then that gets me going because I want to beat my career high in rebounds,” said Raggio. “If I am scoring and the ball is going in, I am going to keep shooting it. I won't stop even when I am missing shots. I am going to keep looking for players.”
Raggio’s performance this season has been a big contrast to her sophomore season, and her will to win has been contagious. Her fellow starters Jasmine Forcadilla, Stella Beck and Megan McKay, along with freshman Madeline Holland, have been stepping up and the entire team’s effort has been creating momentum since opening night.
“Growing up my dad has driven into me that I have to win and it's been jammed in my head ever since,” said Raggio. “If I score 25 points in one game and we lost, I don't care about the points. I care about that we lost. I do whatever it takes to win. It's always been my go-to mentality.”
“I’m super proud to be her coach,” said Thomas. “She has come a long way. After your fifth or sixth game as a freshman, you are no longer a freshman. She and I have talked about that. If you are a starter, you have to act like it. If you are an all-league player, you have to act like it. I think she is getting to that point where she is acting like it.”
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