Peninsula High center Kirsten Ritchie missed the first month of her sophomore basketball season with a lower back injury. Then, after returning to action, she missed more time with ankle and knee issues.
This year, as a junior, Ritchie’s healthy, and the team is reaping the benefits.
“It’s nice to be there for the entire season and not have to watch it all from the bench,” Ritchie said. “I know how hard that is. I’m really thankful I’m doing a little better this season.”
Ritchie did physical therapy throughout the summer to improve the strength in her knees. She also credits the program’s increased workout schedule during the offseason with helping her stay active.
“As a program, we did a lot more this summer,” Ritchie said. “In the offseason, we did yoga and weights. Not having a real break helped a lot with staying strong.”
But mostly — knock on wood — she’s just been luckier with her health this season. And for Peninsula (14-6 overall, 8-6 South Sound Conference 3A), Ritchie’s health and presence has been a boon to the team. Ritchie is averaging eight points and eight rebounds per game, and has been the team’s second leading scorer behind sophomore star Belle Frazier.
“I think we just have a lot of teamwork and we definitely learned how to just communicate a lot better,” Ritchie said. “I think our team, throughout the season has become closer. I think that’s showing on the court.”
Peninsula’s 2016-17 season has been a far cry from last season, in which the Seahawks posted a 7-16 overall record.
“I think it just comes down to chemistry on the court,” Ritchie said. “A lot of us have been playing together for a long time. The juniors and seniors have all been around for a while. Having a strong sophomore class and a good base with some new energy really helped us have a good start.”
Ritchie said the team’s focus in practice has also been better this season.
“We’re able to get in the gym, put the work in and get out,” she said. “We’re just able to get things done easier. We work well together. I think our mindset is in the right place.”
If Peninsula is to make a run in the postseason, which begins on Thursday (Feb. 9) against Lakes at North Thurston High School at 6 p.m., Ritchie will likely be a big part of the Seahawks’ fate. Peninsula dropped its final two games of the regular season to Central Kitsap and North Thurston, and is looking to swing the momentum back in its favor.
“I think it’s just going back to the basics, doing what we’re capable of doing,” Ritchie said. “Not going in with big expectations, just keeping an open mind and playing like we know we’re able to.”