The Shorecrest girls basketball team has been nearly unbeatable this season.
The Scots (20-1) have delivered a number of impressive performances on their way to a Wesco 3A/2A title, and senior Sydney VanNess has played a pivotal role along the way.
“Sydney is one of our captains,” Shorecrest coach Carlos Humphrey said. “She’s definitely one of our spiritual leaders on the court. She is a very tough kid on the court and she’s just an amazing teammate off the court. She’s very fiery when she plays, she’s very emotional on the court sometimes and some kids can let that emotion eat them up, but our team actually feeds off that a little bit. So when she’s going and she’s playing well, we all kind of benefit from that.
“She’s had a great season. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but she’s been part of a group between her, Amanda Lee and Kiana Lino that is the nucleus of our team. She brings it at both ends of the floor every night.”
The 5-foot-8 guard poured in 26 points to lead Shorecrest to a 46-44 victory over Bishop Blanchet on Dec. 30, 2019, and was voted at The Herald’s Athlete of the Week for the week of Dec. 30-Jan. 5.
“I think I was just on that night,” VanNess said. “I always try to just not focus on offense and just focus on defense. I think that’s what I did. I think I just played really well like last year when I hit the game-winner against Snohomish. I was like mentally locked in and everything. It was fun.”
For her efforts, VanNess was voted The Herald’s Athlete of the Month for January by our readers. We recently caught up with her to discuss her plans of playing both soccer and basketball in college, what it’s like to balance multiple sports and her role in the Shorecrest’s Natural Helpers club.
What’s it like to receive the recognition from your friends, family and peers to win the Athlete of the Month voting?
I just feel really appreciative of the support that I have around me and whoever believes in me. I just feel really appreciative for the family that I have around me and the community that I have around me, too.
You and your teammates are in the middle of a very successful season. You just won a conference title. How is everyone feeling about the postseason?
I think we’re feeling pretty level-headed right now. We’re really just focused on just one game at a time and just making sure we’re not satisfied right now because anything can happen at any time, anyone can win any game at any time. We’re just focused on the first game ahead of us and moving on.
Your team has been very strong defensively this season (allowing just 35.3 points per game). You play defender for the school’s soccer team. Is there anything from soccer defensively that helps you when you’re playing basketball?
I definitely get the help mentality on defense from soccer that I (use) in basketball. Like this whole season I’ve been taking more charges than I ever have in my life, and I think that reflects off of soccer. … Also just the communication aspect of it. If I don’t communicate, I don’t have a good game. I’m all about communication with my teammates, especially on defense.
Do you have a favorite between the two sports?
Everyone asks me that question, and I’ve played both all my life — I’ve loved both all my life. I think I really started to show a little more love for basketball because I wanted to make myself a better player. … Soccer came more naturally to me and I just wanted to be better at basketball. So I think I picked basketball (to focus on) freshman year because I just wanted to be better at it and it made me like it more. Just because I like the work ethic that it gave me and the mentality. It gave me positivity.
Coach Humphrey mentioned you’re planning on playing both at Everett Community College. How did that come about?
The basketball coach (Chet Hovde) actually came to a couple of our games and Carlos’ wife actually played there, so I had some connection there to play basketball. That came first. Then my career counselor at Shorecrest actually emailed both the soccer and basketball coach because she knew I wanted to play both. They both emailed back and were really interested.
Do you play for any clubs outside of high school?
My freshman year I played both soccer (for) Seattle United and for basketball I played with Hoopaholics at first … I stopped (doing both) my sophomore year because it was getting really hard on my body to play both in the offseason. So I picked basketball and I transitioned to another team called Y.E.A. this last summer and they were awesome. They really helped a lot of my skills and stuff like that.
What’s it like trying balance both?
I wouldn’t say it was hard because I was doing it all my life, going from soccer practice then to basketball practice, but it was definitely hard trying to find school time to do my homework and stuff. But overall it wasn’t that hard. Just the body aspect of it, it kind of wore my body down. My dad was worried that I would get injured because of it. So he told me I need to pick between both of them.
Are you involved in any clubs or activities at school?
I did Natural Helpers, which is like a club where you’re selected into it by your peers. It’s kind of like you’re a really good listener and you help people out in bad situations that they’re in. Just if someone needs someone to talk to, you’re there to listen to them and help them through whatever they’re going through. … That club was really cool and a good experience to just learn. I was learning about suicide and suicide prevention. It was a good life lesson and just good things to carry on when I graduate.