Sullivan brings leadership on the court for Spartans

Senior captain Ashley Sullivan has stepped up as a leader for the Spartans. (Katie Morrison)

LYNN — There are plenty of ingredients that make for a winning recipe in basketball. In order for a team to win, it needs players who can score, defend, rebound and lead by example, to name a few. Peabody native Ashley Sullivan, a senior guard on the girls basketball team at St. Mary’s doesn’t carry all-star caliber stats. Leadership’s her strongest attribute and it’s a key ingredient that has helped the Spartans to a 12-4 season thus far.

“Going into senior year I was trying to fulfill the leadership role that Olivia Nazaire left,” Sullivan, a four-year player and team captain, said. “Olivia was our only senior last year. I had a key role last year as a junior but I knew I had to step up because we have a lot of younger players this year. We have a lot of potential on this team. We can go all the way, we just need to push ourselves.”

With a talented core in Pam Gonzalez, Nicolette D’Itria, Olivia Matela, Gabby Torres and Yirsy Queliz doing the bulk of the scoring, the Spartans don’t often worry about putting points on the board. With that in mind, Sullivan focuses on being a leader.

“I would say I’m a pretty good senior leader,” Sullivan said. “I know I’m not going to score 1,000 points. My role on the team is working hard on defense and supporting every girl that goes on the court. I support each of my teammates from our eighth-grader (Queliz) to my fellow seniors (Gonzalez, Ajhalae Acevedo, Ellie Riordan).”

One of her main responsibilities is creating an environment where the Spartans’ underclassmen feel comfortable while being up to speed. St. Mary’s carries three freshmen and five sophomores on its roster. Sullivan feels things have gone well on that end thus far.

“All our seniors are really welcoming toward the underclassmen,” Sullivan said. “Lately I’ve noticed they come to us in school and on the court with questions. We want everyone to feel comfortable on the team so that the environment’s positive and we can work well together on and off the court.”

Sullivan also makes it a priority to serve as a role model in the classroom. She’s currently balancing her basketball duties with academics, while applying for colleges.

“It’s stressful but I’m almost through it,” Sullivan, interested in studying business, said. “I’ve applied to all my colleges. UNH is my top school. I don’t think I want to play in college. If I want to continue, I’m looking at UMB but I’m not sure if that’s what I want to do. I’m trying to balance school, college and sports. You kind of want everyone to look up to you in terms of time management and kind of be a role model to them.”

Aside from her guidance, Sullivan also helps take care of the “little things” that often add up when reflecting on a victory. And those efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

“Ashley does things that enable the team to win basketball games,” St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall said. “She doesn’t do the things that get you in the newspaper every night. Without her grit, leadership and will to win, we wouldn’t be having the success we are right now.”

St. Mary’s started slow out of the gate this season but the Spartans have found their footing. They sealed a berth in the Division 3 North state tournament last week with a win over Newburyport.

“We had a shaky start but we bonded together,” Sullivan said. “We talked and it wasn’t a separation of the team or anything. Our momentum’s been really good at this point. Everyone on the bench is involved, everyone’s cheering and supporting one another. We know the balance of joking around, having fun and knowing when to be serious.
“We’ve communicated very well lately,” she added. “It helps us that we’re all friends off the court but we’re not afraid to say something. We have a lot of guards on the team but we all communicate with our post players. Our communication has been great lately and it helps us do what needs to be done to get a win at the end of the day.”

Although they’ve punched their ticket to the postseason, the Spartans still have work to do. They’d like to maintain their momentum and would prefer to hold off on traveling during the tournament for as long as they can.

“(Qualifying for states) is a little bit of weight off our shoulders but we have to keep the momentum and keep our energy high,” Sullivan said. “We still have a lot of games we need to win. If we go into the tournament with a couple more wins that’s going to help us. Nobody wants to go into the tournament with a loss. We need to keep the momentum and the energy up until the very end.”

Sullivan and the Spartans host Catholic Central League rival Cardinal Spellman Friday (6:30).

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