Keep calm and carry on: McGee ready to lead

— Arch­bish­op Ry­an's Jenna McGee may be shy off the field, but on it she'll help carry the Rag­dolls in 2013.

Jenna McGee (right), 16, helps Madis­on Mulka, 12, dur­ing a soft­ball camp at Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School. Jenna is a key soft­ball play­er on Ry­an’s soft­ball team that will be help­ing teach the week-long sum­mer camp, Monday, June 25, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


If Jenna McGee was play­ing nervous this past sea­son, then oth­er teams in the Cath­ol­ic League should be put on no­tice. Once she finds her con­fid­ence, op­pon­ents will be the ones fight­ing nerves, try­ing to fig­ure out ways to keep her off the bases.

McGee re­cently com­pleted her sopho­more year at Arch­bish­op Ry­an and is the start­ing second base­man for the Rag­dolls soft­ball team. In her first sea­son as a full-time starter, McGee put up en­vi­ous num­bers as the team’s two-hole hit­ter: she bat­ted .424 with a .522 on-base per­cent­age while scor­ing 13 runs.

She also led the Rag­dolls in the over­looked cat­egory of sac­ri­fice bunts. Bat­ting be­hind leadoff hit­ter Megan Wolf (an on-base ma­chine in her own right), McGee was en­trus­ted with the un­glam­or­ous job of ad­van­cing her team­mate in­to scor­ing po­s­i­tion so the big bop­pers in the lineup could bring Wolf home. Things worked out well for both parties, as the Rag­dolls ad­vanced to the Cath­ol­ic League semi­finals and McGee was se­lec­ted to be one of four sopho­mores on the league’s Car­penter Cup squad, an an­nu­al All-Star event that show­cases top base­ball and soft­ball tal­ent in South­east­ern Pennsylvania, New Jer­sey and Delaware.

So with im­port­ant seni­ors such as Wolf, Heath­er For­ward, Tiffany Di­Mat­teo and Alyssa Gos­podarek gone and gradu­ated, is McGee ready to make the leap to team lead­er?

Not just yet, but give her time…she’s work­ing on it.

“Some­times I get nervous that I can’t help people the same way that they’ve helped me,” she said on Monday, fol­low­ing the first day of a weeklong soft­ball camp hos­ted by the school. “When I try to help people I get scared that I’m show­ing them how to do things the wrong way. But I like to help, and I like it when people ask for my help…I just have to get more com­fort­able in that role.”

Per­haps McGee is just nervous by nature. In con­ver­sa­tion she is tim­id, but also had mo­ments of be­ing bub­bly and en­ga­ging. Be­fore McGee was done with her group of campers on Monday, For­ward re­ferred to her former team­mate as “the quietest girl on the team…but also the nicest.” McGee her­self ad­mit­ted to be­ing “awk­ward” when in­ter­act­ing with new people, but that didn’t stop her from en­joy­ing the hon­or of be­ing se­lec­ted for the Car­penter Cup, even if she did ac­know­ledge that be­ing the only Ry­an play­er on the roster was ini­tially “scary.”

“It was a little strange, es­pe­cially be­ing on the same team as girls from St. Hubert,” she said. “But they’re really nice girls, so when you put aside the fact that you’re used to be­ing their op­pon­ent then it’s a really fun ex­per­i­ence. We only played one day, but as the day moved along we star­ted to talk more and be­come friends right away. It starts awk­ward and be­comes com­fort­able once you see they’re tal­en­ted play­ers just like you. It was a good ex­per­i­ence for me.”

On June 18, McGee and com­pany pul­ver­ized their Pub­lic League coun­ter­parts, 18-3, but de­feats at the hands of Chester County and Delaware County in the double-elim­in­a­tion tour­na­ment made it a short but sweet ven­ture for the Ry­an ju­ni­or-to-be. Now, even though sum­mer va­ca­tion just star­ted, McGee spends most of her time think­ing about the 2013 Rag­dolls sea­son, mainly about how she can el­ev­ate her game to help re­place what Ry­an will be los­ing.

“I just want us to do well,” she said. “I want us to win so bad be­cause I think we’re a really good team. I know we’re cap­able of get­ting to where we want to be, and that will mo­tiv­ate us to keep work­ing hard in­to next sea­son. This year, we es­pe­cially wanted to win the title for the seni­ors; now that they’re gone we’re go­ing to have to try even harder, which I think will be good for this in­com­ing group.”

After knock­ing off St. Hubert early in the sea­son, the Rag­dolls nev­er got a shot at the Bam­bies in the play­offs, in­stead fall­ing to Con­well-Egan in the semi­finals. Ry­an had won eight straight head­ing in­to the semi­finals, but rainy weath­er kept push­ing the Egan game back and the Rag­dolls fell, 9-6, while St. Hubert cap­tured their fourth league title in sev­en years. (The Bam­bies de­feated Ry­an in the title game in 2011.)

Ry­an head coach Andy Hafele ad­mit­ted to be­ing dis­ap­poin­ted in how the sea­son ended, ac­know­ledging that his team had the tal­ent to win it all; prob­lem is, most teams that play in the Cath­ol­ic League are cap­able of do­ing so. Still, Hafele is en­cour­aged about his team’s pro­spects go­ing for­ward, and his second base­man is a big reas­on why.

“If we had four more Jenna McGee’s then I’d be a happy camper,” he said. “We’re go­ing to count on her to be one of our lead­ers next year, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing we’ll only have two seni­ors. She’s cer­tainly cap­able of be­ing a lead­er. Jenna is re­turn­ing with a great at­ti­tude, and if she has more con­fid­ence in her­self then she’ll be even bet­ter than she has been.”

Hafele also men­tioned that get­ting an early start as a varsity play­er will help McGee down the line.

“She wound up start­ing full-time mid­way through her fresh­man year,” the coach said. “A lot of play­ers don’t get such an early start, and the ex­per­i­ence does leaps and bounds for one’s con­fid­ence. It takes most play­ers time to fig­ure out what they need to do to be suc­cess­ful at the varsity level. Jenna already knows that about her­self.”

After the camp sub­sides at the end of the week, McGee will fo­cus on en­joy­ing her sum­mer, much like a 16-year-old girl should. But she knows the 2013 sea­son will be here be­fore she knows it, and she’s ready to take the next step, both as a play­er and lead­er.

“Every year you want to be bet­ter than you were the year be­fore,” she said. “In our league, we have to take it one game at a time, but at the same time we want to go fur­ther than we have these last two years. For us, that means get­ting to the cham­pi­on­ship and win­ning it. We want to win every single game, and I think that drive will push us over the top to where we want and need to be.”  ••


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