BELOIT — The West Branch Warriors are one of the most successful girls basketball programs in Northeastern Ohio. Their 722 wins going into this season rank 12th all-time in the state of Ohio. The Warriors are off to a 7-1 start this season.
"A big reason for our success is that we have had players that are more concerned with the success of the team than their own statistics," said West Branch coach Walt DeShields.
"That player on this team is [senior captain] Elizabeth Ostadali. She is a team-first person and has great character; that is how she was raised," added DeShields. "She is a 4.0 student and soaks in everything that you teach as coach. She studies the game plan and watches film. She knows what every player on our team should be doing and what our opponents are going to run. She constantly reminds our players in practice and from the bench in games about what they should be doing. She has embraced her role and is very unselfish."
Parents clashing with coaches over playing time has become more commonplace. In Niles, it became so bad that the coach, Michael Cappuzello, resigned five games into this season because of this.
In regard to her playing time, Ostadali’s attitude is refreshing.
"Everyone on the team has a role. Some girls are scorers and some are defenders. I haven’t been playing as long as Grace [Heath] and the other girls but my strength is helping them prepare for the game. My parents sit down front at every game are very supportive of the role that I have taken with the team," said Ostadali.
"I really study the game plans and watch film. I want to know all our opponents’ plays, their personnel and what they will do in specific situations," said Ostadali.
Teammates have taken notice.
"Her mom has her little book and keeps track of everything. I guess that’s where she gets it," said Heath, a senior captain. "Before the game, she writes parts of the game plan on the board and quizzes us on it. She is a great teammate and is supportive of everybody. I don’t study the game plan as much as she does, but she helps me out a lot by calling out from the bench.
"In the Salem game I kind of spaced out and she yelled to me from the bench and I was able to recover and make the stop."
Ostadali shared another way that she helps the Warriors on game day. "Last year Kirsten Plocher and I started writing one thing on each player’s hand to key on for the game. Since Kirsten graduated, I have continued to do it."
As in any strong program, senior leadership is also a key to the Warriors’ success.
"Grace and I take the responsibility of senior leadership very seriously, but we lead in different ways," said Ostadali. "Grace leads by example while I try to keep everyone positive and focused."
DeShields said Ostadali, who plans to study chemical engineering at Ohio State, has a "champion’s attitude."
"Liz brings a great deal to the table as a leader," said DeShields. "She had a very good season in soccer this year and we are very happy for her. She made first team Eastern Buckeye Conference and was a league champion. She is a competitor and she brings that champion’s attitude to our program.
"The team and the coaches respect her for the time and effort that she puts in during the season and in the offseason and the unselfishness that she shows for the team," added DeShields. "She is also a great role model for our younger players. Early in the season, our practices can run 2 1/2 to 3 hours counting the weight room. It can be a little overwhelming to the younger girls; they wonder if they can make it. Liz takes them under her wing to encourage them and show them that they can make it.
"We often talk about what your legacy will be when you leave the Lady Warriors’ basketball program. It is not all about stats; it is about work ethic, integrity and how you treat others. Liz will leave behind a very strong legacy."