Small school, big talent

By Chris Slone - [email protected]

Small schools feature athletic programs indicative to their size in stature. However, the size of the athletic program isn’t reflective of the talent level.

Hagen Schaefer is the epitome of a small-school athlete who has the accomplishments to suggest she’s as talented as any player in southern Ohio.

Schaefer plays three sports at Notre Dame High School — basketball, volleyball and softball. Her accomplishments are well documented with plaques that feature “first-team All District” and “first-team All SOC.”

The milestones are also becoming a routine part of Schaefer’s career. Earlier this year, Schaefer recorded 1,000 career assists in volleyball and once her senior campaign in basketball gets underway, she is expected to join the 1,000-point club.

“I was obviously surprised, especially since I’m only a second-year setter,” Schaefer said. “It obviously helps that I have a great team and great passers. It was pretty exciting and I enjoyed every moment of it. With the team’s reaction, it was just really fun.”

While achieving 1,000-career points in basketball is on the horizon, Schaefer knows she would have already been a member of the exclusive club if she hadn’t suffered an injury on the hardwood during her sophomore.

The injury occurred one day after Drew Lowe from East hit a game-tying three in a contest that the Tartans eventually won in overtime over the Notre Dame Titans. Schaefer, who is dating Lowe, was the brunt of the jokes the next day at school. Fellow classmate and teammate of Schaefer’s, Ragen Kayser, even joked about Schaefer suffering an injury.

“The next day Ragen Kayser came in and said hey, ‘your boyfriend is the reason we lost, I hope you break your finger or something,” Schaefer said. “Little did she know, later that practice I would. I thought that was funny.”

Schaefer did suffer a broken metacarpal bone in her pinky finger on her right hand. After not playing well themselves the night before, Titans coach JD McKenzie decided to hold a physical practice. One of the drills was fighting for loose rebounds with two players competing against each other.

Schaefer and Maggie Whitman were competing in the drill, and once Schaefer grabbed the rebound, Whitman tried to dislodge the ball from Schaefer’s hands.

“I heard a pop but I just kept going, thinking I just stubbed my finger or something,” Schaefer said. “Then I grabbed the ball and I stopped, I was like what the heck, there’s a dent in the ball. So we stopped the practice and I looked down, and my pinky on my right hand was completely out of place. It was facing west.”

After a visit to the Emergency Room, Schaefer was placed in a cast for about six weeks — effectively ending her sophomore season.

“I was really upset about the injury because basketball is my favorite sport, so I was very upset I had to miss games,” Schaefer said. “But I never missed a practice and I learned my role as a leader on the bench. I learned to be positive and encourage my teammates. They did a wonderful job stepping in and playing without me.”

Now that she’s a senior, Schaefer has already been relishing on the memories she’s made while playing for the Titans.

“I’ve looked back at it a few times,” Schaefer said. “I wouldn’t want to change anything because we’ve won the league several times in every sport that I’ve played. I’ve been a part of great teams and I’ve had great teammates and great coaches. I really couldn’t ask anything more from them.”

And regardless of how many individual accolades she wins, Schaefer will always hold her team’s accomplishments in higher regard.

“The team stats mean the most to me,” Schaefer said. “I remember talking to coach McKenzie and he was joking around and asked,’what would you rather get, 1,000 points or win the league?’”

“Without a doubt, I’d rather win the league. It means more to me to know I have a good team surrounding me and making each other better, than to just get my individual stats and that be it.”

Coming from a small school, Schaefer is proud of the legacy the Notre Dame program has left during her tenure.

“As a little kid, you want to win state championships and all that stuff, but you have to think about the school I’m from. I’m graduating with six girls in my entire senior class,” Schaefer said. “At public schools, you get to pick and choose who you want. At private school, you’ve got what you’ve got. You have to make the best of what you have and I think for the size of our school, we’ve done an excellent job. We have great athletes.”

While looking back, Schaefer has also started visualizing her future. She wants to play basketball at the collegiate level but hasn’t ruled out volleyball.

By Chris Slone

[email protected]

Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.

Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.