When Steve Jacobson took over the reins of the Peninsula High girls basketball program in June 2011, he had a lot of work to do to build self-confidence among the players.
One of the youngest on the roster at that time was Kirstine Rivera. Her growth has mirrored that of the Seahawks’ program, which has won nine games this season to eclipse the win total of the past two years combined.
As a sophomore, Rivera was a little-used substitute on the varsity squad, but she’s now one of Jacobson’s first options off the bench.
At 5-foot-9, Rivera is the prototypical wing player: She has enough size and scrappiness to rebound or shoot over opponents, and she’s quick enough to defend some point guards.
Rivera also is emblematic of the attitude change inside the Hawks’ gym. The players aren’t content with losing, the junior said, and they take it more personally when they have a poor performance. After they lost to Lakes by 31 points, the girls were on the floor 30 minutes early for the next day’s practice session.
“We’re more of a basketball team than we were last year,” Rivera said. “Last year was kind of like, ‘Let’s have fun and goof around.’ This year we’re more focused, and we’re a tighter-knit group.”
Rivera took a few moments last week to talk with The Peninsula Gateway about her life on and off the court:
The Peninsula Gateway: How did you get started playing basketball, and what have you improved since you joined the Peninsula team?
Kirstine Rivera: I’ve been playing since I was about 5. My parents played, and I just kind of kept playing. I played select ball last year, and that helped me improve my game a lot. I got more confidence on the floor, more confidence in my dribble. I can shoot a lot better than I used to.
There’s a big difference between where I was in middle school and starting out freshman year. I played select in middle school, then I took a year off, and then I played for a really intense team (South Sound-based Total Package) last year, and the coach was really good. She really helped me out a lot.
PG: Your coaches and teammates call you Corky. Where did that nickname come from?
KR: I’ve kind of had it forever. My grandparents gave it to me when I was really little, because there were two Kirstines in the family.
PG: What has Jacobson helped you with in terms of individual skills?
KR: I feel like my team aspect of the game, playing with all five people on the floor, has improved. My other coach would focus on my individual fundamentals, and (Jacobson is) more about the spots to be on the floor and who to look for.
PG: What do you like to do when you’re not playing basketball?
KR: I definitely focus on my academics a lot, because that’s a big part of my life. I do Running Start (a program that allows high-school students to earn college credits). I play fastpitch as well, and I just hang out with my friends and enjoy life.
PG: Do you have any favorite music or movies?
KR: I like Macklemore, and I just like going to the movies. I like pretty much any kind of movie.Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.