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Former coach enjoys watching his daughter play for Danville

March 01, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

Monica Vonderbrink can't remember a time when she wasn't shooting baskets.

As the daughter of a basketball coach, she was always filling her spare minutes trying to fill up the nets. Whether sneaking in a few shots at halftime or killing time after the game while waiting for her dad, she was seemingly always in a gym.

"We were just always there," she said.

Vonderbrink and her sisters were always around when their father, Matt, was coaching the Danville boys or serving as an assistant with the Centre College men.

"They spent a lot of time in gyms whether they wanted to or not," Matt said. "Whenever there was dead time, they had balls in their hands."

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And it shows. Monica bears all the hallmarks of a coach's child, traits that are serving her well in her senior season with a Danville girls team that enters the postseason with its best record ever.

She is enjoying the chance to share the experience with younger sister Sarah, a sophomore on the same team. Her father, whose basketball coaching days are over, is enjoying watching them both.

"I think I've tried to be more of a parent," Matt said. "I've kind of enjoyed that better."

Monica said she can tell her father is enjoying the success Danville has had this season.

"I'd say he's more excited for us, not maybe watching the games, but knowing all the time we've put into it," Monica said. "He's happy that we finally made it farther than we expected to."

Danville won its first 12th Region All "A" Classic title last month, and the Admirals are the No. 1 seed in this week's 45th District Tournament with a school-record 19 wins. A win in their Wednesday semifinal would put them in the 12th Region Tournament for the first time ever.

"I think that's really rewarding, not just for Monica but for the four seniors," Matt said. "It's a program that hasn't had a lot of success, but they all stuck together, and I'm glad they've had some success and are getting recognized for it."

Matt Vonderbrink hasn't officially coached his daughters since he helped with their little league teams years ago, but he has spent plenty of time with them in the backyard.

"When we were younger, he taught us the main points of the game," Monica said.

"It's kind of getting raggedy now," Sarah said of that backyard basket. "He'd always cheat for me because I'd always lose against Monica."

A little friendly cheating aside, both father and daughters say sportsmanship is one of the most important things he has passed down to them.

"I'd say we probably get our sportsmanship from him," Monica said.

Matt said he tries to teach his girls not to lay the blame on the referees. "They'll come home and complain about officials, and I'll try to keep them in perspective," he said.

But when it comes to coaching, the father stays out of the way.

"He doesn't say anything during games because he doesn't think it's his job to do that," Monica said.

Matt played for Centre from 1976-80, and his daughters say they have heard accounts of his playing days.

"Mom tells us stories all the time," said Monica, who will turn 18 on Thursday and is 28 months older than Sarah.

He later spent six years as an assistant coach at Centre under Tom Bryant, then coached at a high school in Lynchburg, Va., before coming back to lead the Danville boys for four seasons.

He went back to Centre as an assistant for the first three years of current coach Greg Mason's tenure, and he now coaches Centre's tennis teams.

Basketball isn't the only game for the Vonderbrinks

Basketball isn't the only game the Vonderbrink family cares about. Monica and Sarah also play softball, and seventh-grader Dana is currently involved in swimming and cheerleading.

"She didn't want to be like us," Sarah said.

Matt said he sees clear differences in his two oldest daughters: Monica's experience makes her a more refined player, while Sarah is more aggressive.

"Monica has probably developed better skills right now. And Sarah's learned a whole lot of basketball being on the bench a lot," he said.

For now, the two older girls are enjoying the time they have to play basketball together.

"Before a big game, we'll stay up for hours talking about what we think the outcome will be," Sarah said.

When it comes to practice, the two are often going one on one, just as they have for years.

"When we scrimmage in practice, we guard each other," Sarah said. "I'll do things to her I wouldn't do to another teammate."

As with most siblings, it's a competitive rivalry.

"We argue a lot, but we end up working it out at the end," Monica said.

"She's kind of my standard," Sarah said. "If she makes 12 shots in practice, I want to make 13. We've had a special bond that we were there together. It'll be different when she's not there."

Monica said she hopes to play basketball and softball in college, perhaps at Centre. She said she's considering a career in physical therapy, but she said she'll always stay close to sports, just like her father.

"I know there's no way I'll ever not be somewhat involved in sports," she said.

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