Lydia Stariha was the youngest of three girls growing up in the busy Stariha household. They would often play 2-on-2 games of basketball on the driveway at home with little Lydia teaming up with her father, Mike, playing against her older sisters, Sarah and Jillian. Their mother, Resa, attempted to officiate.
When Lydia was much younger, they gave her an advantage where she had three seconds to dribble, pass or shoot. Then she was fair game.
Calling it a friendly family game might be a stretch.
“Once the three seconds were up, Jillian and I showed no mercy,” says Sarah, now 23. “We happily stole the ball from her or blocked her shoot. Jillian and I enjoyed beating Lydia up. The games never ended in a victory for either team, instead they usually ended with tears and blood. Lydia learned very quickly how to fight back against her two older, bigger sisters.”
As the girls got older, and Sarah starting playing in college and Jillian (now 21) got into rugby, the family games became a lot more physical. In good Stariha fashion the emphasis was always on defense, so the harder you played, the better the game was.
In the long run, those family games of hard knocks helped to mold and shape the youngest Stariha sibling into the athlete she is today. She carried on the family tradition in fine form, earning a rare hat trick for First Team All-BCR Honors in volleyball, basketball and softball.
With that, she is now the 2012-13 BCR Female Athlete of the Year. She is the first Academy girl to earn that honor since Katie Zemann shared it in 2000.
One who has greatly appreciated and admired Lydia Stariha’s talents and desire for the game is Lady Bruins basketball coach Tom McGunnigal. He knows she had big shoes to fill, and did it well, leaving her mark at the Academy in her own way.
“It had to be tough on Lydia coming in to St. Bede after two older sisters going through and setting such a high standard athletically and academically. But all to Lydia’s credit she made her own trail and set her own standards and never once allowed for comparisons,” he said.
“She is a strong leader and a feisty competitor and really made a name for herself and did not allow any shadows of her sisters to get in her way. Give a ton of credit to her parents for raising her that way. Each of the girls in their own way were different but yet very similar in that they each had different strengths and weaknesses, better at one aspect of a sport than the other, but their smarts, instinct, and drive were unmatched in each of the classes that they were a part of. Lydia took on all challenges and personally turned those into quests for herself that fueled her to be successful.
“Lydia had some pretty high benchmarks to hit so she did very well and left a tremendous mark, athletically and academically, and most important to me – personally! She is a great kid.”
Lydia says she feels like she was the lucky one growing up as the youngest child.
“Whenever we played together, I got to play against the good players and they had to play against me, but really, it’s awesome. They did so well at St. Bede, I knew I could do well.”
While admitting to a little pressure from the family standards, Lydia called it a driving force, “because you don’t want to be the weak link.”
Of all the sports, basketball is her favorite sport because she said how you play is what you get out of it.
“I like that the harder you play the better you are. You have more control over the game,” said the IBCA Special Mention All-State point guard. “You always want to go as hard as you can. Our parents always taught us to give 100 percent.”
In volleyball, coach Dawn Williams, who returned to the Academy last season, moved Stariha from libero to outside hitter to better utilize her all-around talents. She responded by scoring 106 points with 28 aces and adding 118 kills and 195 digs.
She capped her career at St. Bede this spring by participating in the Lady Bruins’ softball team’s historic run to the State Tournament, finishing fourth in Class 2A.
“Going to state in softball was awesome. We made history in our school. It was a great feeling to go that far. That’s a new standard for St. Bede sports,” said the senior catcher, who batted a team-high .455 with an area-best three triples and 17 stolen bases.
That accomplishment gave Stariha some bragging rights at home, saying of course she’s used that against her sisters.
“During the season, Dad always told me the last two winning captains were Jill and Sarah. I felt, I’ve got to step it up, too,” she said.
This summer, Lydia is already working on her training workouts for Grinnell College where she will play both basketball and softball. She is excited to play for the Pioneers, because they have “a great athletic program, but more importantly have really good academics.”
She will major in chemistry with a concentration of environment science to get into research.
When she comes home and finds her sisters there, the little sister home court advantage is long forgotten. Lydia is dishing it out as much as her siblings, in good old Stariha manner.
“When I when I started college Lydia was in eighth grade. We’d play one on one and the game would be a little lopsided. Today when we play one on one, she usually wins,” Sarah said.
And that’s the way they like it.
Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.