STRATFORD—When Abby Anka walked into the Needham Gym on the first day of the girls basketball season, she officially started playing for her fourth varsity coach in four years.
One year at Notre Dame-Fairfield preceded a transfer to Stratford High for her sophomore year, so every season she’s played for a different person who was calling the shots.
When it comes to Stratford High girls basketball, though, there has only been one constant in Anka’s career.
That’s Abby Anka herself.
Anka is the Red Devils only senior this season, which coincides with Kelsey Gilmore’s first season as head coach.
“It’s weird being the only senior,” Anka admitted before a practice last week.
Anka will not be a 1,000-point scorer at Stratford High. Nor will she lead the Red Devils on any state championship runs.
Her legacy, however, will be showing up every day and putting in the work that will make the program better down the road.
“I don’t know. I just feel like this program has been slowly getting better since I transferred here,” Anka said. “I just want that to keep going. I want to do whatever I can do to make Stratford High girls basketball the best it can be. The program is on the way up.”
Her sophomore season, under former coach Cliff LaRose, Stratford went 4-16.
Last season, under coach Laura Discenza, Anka helped lead a seven-win effort that got Stratford back into the state tournament.
Now, she’s the only senior on a very young but athletic team that is looking to add the next brick to the foundation of an unknown future.
“Abby is probably one of the most humble kids I’ve ever been around,” Gilmore said. “She doesn’t worry at all about points. She’s a team player. She’s one of those leaders who lead by example.”
It’s a role Anka takes seriously, as well.
“I’m just hoping to keep morale up and keep being a role model for the younger players and setting that precedent as a player,” Anka said. “We’re a very young group so the fact (the younger players) are stepping up and the energy is still high and that they want to be here is pretty awesome.”
A former multi-sport athlete who started focusing on basketball during her middle school years, this might be Anka’s final season in a Stratford uniform, but she’s hoping it won’t be her last competitive season.
She’s looking at colleges and has made a few visits while sorting out the process of what comes next.
“I’ve been talking with coaches and getting a feel for everything,” Anka said. “It’s been pretty awesome. I’m excited about the future, but it’s still pretty open.”
Abby Anka will keep taking things day by day, showing up, putting the work in.
When all is said and done, her legacy will be there for other Red Devils to follow.
(On The Sidelines is an occasional feature column written by Stratford Sports Scene publisher John Nash)
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