Sweet basketball seasons now over for two local women's players
While March Madness rages on -- and it's definitely had some madness to it thus far -- last weekend signaled the end to the season for two local women's basketball players now flourishing at the NCAA Division III level.
Yssa Sto. Domingo, a Streamwood native and St. Edward graduate, and Hersey alum Mary Kate Fahey saw their seasons -- and for Sto. Domingo her career -- end on March 11 in the DIII Sweet Sixteen.
And while Sto. Domingo can reflect on a career at Wisconsin-Whitewater that included playing in the 2022 DIII national championship game, Fahey has hopes that will be a part of her final resume at New York University.
A career well done
"It's truly been such an honor and privilege to play for such a great program," said Sto. Domingo of her time at Whitewater. "When I decided to attend and play at UWW, I knew that I was coming into a very successful program. The end goal is always to win a national championship. Getting to be in that situation of playing in a national championship game with last year's team, I know what it takes, and the devotion needed to make it back to that awesome environment again for my fifth year."
Even though Whitewater came up short of that goal this season, the 5-foot-4 Sto. Domingo did her part in forging yet another winning season for the Warhawks. She started all 30 games, helping UWW to a 23-7 record. She averaged 6.2 points per game and led the team in assists.
For her career, she played in 104 games, dishing out nearly 200 assists and averaging 5 points per game.
Beyond the stat sheet, Sto. Domingo became a valued leader for the Warhawks, especially this season as she was a fifth-year graduate student.
"The part of my game that I have improved the most since high school would be being more of a vocal leader," said Sto. Domingo, a three-sport athlete at St. Edward who led the Green Wave to a third-place finish in the Class 2A basketball tournament in 2017.
"In high school, I would say the foundation of my leadership was through leading by example. While that is still true, I have developed into a new role where I act as a "messenger" from coaches to players while being on the court -- and that is the beauty of being the point guard for this team and having the role to facilitate/lead this team.
"Being a leader is something I think I've embodied naturally. At the beginning of each season, I truly emphasize my line of contact to the team/newcomers, and I think that that is what sets the foundation for how close of a relationship I have with each teammate. I want my teammates to know that whether something is basketball related or not, they are able to come talk to me. In the scheme of being a leader on the court and being a point guard, I have the opportunity to facilitate and get us all on the same page.
Whitewater coach Keri Carollo said Sto. Domingo's diminutive stature didn't hinder her becoming a top-notch player at the college level.
"We were definitely hopeful that she would become the player that she is today, but you never know how student/athletes are going to handle the challenges of playing a college sport," Carollo said. "Her stature did not intimidate us, because we knew she would overcome that with her worth ethic and her high basketball IQ.
"Her leadership and her court presence are her best attributes. She is calm under pressure; she makes great decisions with the basketball, and she is someone you can always rely on. As a coach you always hope that you have someone on the floor that is your court leader and Yssa embodies all of those qualities."
Sto. Domingo will now focus on completing her education.
"After completing my graduate studies certificate, I am currently in the process of determining which job opportunity will help me grow personally and professionally," she said. "I am planning to work in the sports industry doing digital/social media marketing."
Speaking of the future
Fahey, who was the 2020-21 Daily Herald all-area team captain for the Northwest suburbs, was also a three-sport athlete at Hersey, and actually earned a fourth varsity letter her senior year when, due to the pandemic, she also played tennis.
A member of the Hersey career 1,000-point club, she started all four years at point guard, playing in 105 out of a possible 107 games (2 missed due to injury), leading the Huskies in assists every year and finishing with a nearly 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Having just completed her sophomore season at NYU, Fahey is poised to take on more of a leadership role for the Violets, who finished this season 25-3.
"I think my growth within the program is a credit to the upperclassmen the last two years who have helped me not only with the adjustments on the court, but also being in a new city so far away from my family and living on my own for the first time in my life," she said. "It can be very overwhelming at times, but with the support of this program I was able to adjust quicker than maybe I even realized. That translated to being more comfortable and confident on the court. Blocking out distractions and finding ways within my role to help the team win games is what it is all about."
Fahey played in all 28 games this season, and saw her minutes on the floor increase as the season went on. She averaged 5 points per game and drew rave reviews from NYU coach Meg Barber.
"MK is a coach's dream," Barber said. "She has always had the work ethic, the selflessness, and the drive to be successful. Simply having a year of college basketball under her belt has given MK experience and this season, that experience has translated into confidence for her on the court and a willingness to do anything it takes in any role asked for the benefit of our team and her teammates.
"MK leads by example. She is the first person on the court and the last to leave. She cares about her teammates and puts team over self in all ways. We don't worry about captain titles in our program. If you can lead, you lead. And MK is certainly a leader for us."
Fahey has embraced the challenges of being a student-athlete at NYU, both on and off the court.
"NYU is a world-class school and the classes are rigorous, especially with our hectic schedules," said Fahey, who is in the Liberal Studies Program. "Making sure nothing slides in the classroom or on the court is definitely a priority and staying organized is an absolute must. Though it is difficult, the end result is all worth it.
"On the court, I was used to playing every minute of the game (at Hersey). Coming off the bench at NYU was like learning a new position. At times, I was a point guard and other times I was the shooting guard. Adjusting to the minutes was challenging because it is much tougher to contribute in what are sometimes short bursts. I had to change my mindset and figure out a way to compete at the highest level when given the opportunity. It was important to make the minutes count and not count the minutes.
Fahey's game has improved despite the fact she's not playing every minute of every game.
"My shot is what I would say has improved the most," she said. "I have always been comfortable handling the ball against defensive pressure from other teams. Last summer, I spent six days a week in a gym making 500 shots a day and five days a week at speed, strength and agility training to prepare for this season. Being versatile enough to play the 1 or 2 could only increase my potential minutes/opportunities, so I wanted to make sure I spent the summer doing that along with scrimmaging with and against some great players in Illinois. All these factors helped improve my game and have helped me so much this season."
And at NYU, she's found a home.
"Just like at Hersey, the best part of NYU for me is the culture of our basketball program," she said. "Everyone literally has your back through ups and downs. The coaches have done a phenomenal job of not only recruiting incredibly talented basketball players, but also players with absolute integrity. We have a lot of fun as a group, but when we are in the gym on the court we all have one goal -- get better each day and strive toward a shot at a National Championship. That's the end goal for this team and our coaches push us for it each day.
"As sad as it is, basketball will end for me one day just like it does for everyone. Being able to have a degree with NYU on it will be just another thing that will help as I move on to the "real" world."
• John Radtke can be reached at Johnradtke75@gmail.com