Lesko uses passion, confidence to lead her team

Matthew Chaves, Sports Editor

Iona College junior Tori Lesko captained the women’s basketball team last season and continues to do so this season. Leading by example and expressing her passion to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships with the team is her way of spearheading the team into victory, she says.

“I want to have a successful year as a team,” Lesko said. “We’ve been through a lot so I think it’s time [to win the MAAC], we’re ready.”

The Gaels didn’t do the best during the regular season. They were 3-15 in conference and despite finishing ninth in the league, they managed to pull off a 75-64 victory against Siena, who were ranked seventh. Siena went 8-10 in conference play. Iona lost in their next match against second-ranked Rider by only 8 points, a good score-line despite the loss. Rider achieved a 14-4 record in conference play.

Lesko had a season high of 14 points, 15 rebounds and six assists last year. She was a pivotal player for the team last season during their strong finish at the MAAC championships, where the team went on to quarter finals.

The junior guard considers confidence to be a big aspect of her leadership as well. Keeping confidence in herself and spreading it to her team is a big part of being captain. Leading on the court is important, but the challenges come when trying to keep that same leadership off the court.

“At times it’s difficult because you want to be a normal college student, but you’re being looked at,” Lesko said. “Especially being in a leadership position, you have to know what you’re doing.”

Setting the example for others at all times is a tough job, but it must be done even if you know no one is watching you at the moment, Lesko says.

Luckily for the former MAAC All-Academic team member, she isn’t alone in this leadership endeavor when it comes to the team. Junior Adrienne DiGioia was named co-captain of the team and helps Lesko. Going to someone to see how you’re doing and getting honest feedback to help you lead takes a lot off your shoulders when you’re trying to lead a team, according to Lesko.

“That’s a nice support system beside me, so I’m excited,” Lesko said.

When it comes to newcomers in the team, showing who’s the leader and setting the standard for them is very important, Lesko says. Having them know how the team does things, from practice to studying, helps them integrate better and builds chemistry throughout the team.

Keeping the consistency of that comes with winning the MAAC championships is difficult, especially in practice, Lesko claims. Focusing on the small steps is a goal for Lesko to instill into the team.

“We’re working hard, putting our bodies through a lot physically and mentally,” Lesko said.

Lesko hopes the team will gain the confidence a winning team has through good play during exhibition matches. Keeping that confidence throughout the season will be difficult for the Gaels if they perform as they did last season. Nonetheless, both Lesko and the Gaels are ready to support each other to reach their ultimate goal of winning the MAAC championships.