#31Days: Remember a rivalry (and how we became friends)

Rewind a few (okay, 10) years and you’ll find me sitting at a computer in February 2003, waiting for the State Basketball bracket to load.  I was a senior in high school and this was my last chance to go for a championship.  My sophomore year, we lost to Brewster in the second round and won out to get 4th at state.  My junior year, we beat Brewster in the semis only to lose to Colfax the next night in the championship.  Senior year, we were gonna get it.  Until the bracket posted and I saw that Brewster was on the same side as us.  Which meant instead of playing them in the championship, we’d have to beat them to get there.

And that wasn’t in the cards.  I started crying right then and there.

You see, Brewster girls basketball is one of those storied programs that gets written up on websites and talked about in small school sports circles for years.  I had the inauspicious privilege of playing these girls when the team was in its heyday (don’t get me wrong, they’re still a powerhouse).  Particularly a guard named Jeni Boesel, who had become the bane of my existence by my senior year.  She could score inside and outside.  She could draw the defense and dish.  She could finish in traffic.  And of course, like any good player, make free throws.  She also played great defense.  Top it off, since she rarely sat out, our best players had to stay in as long as she did to defend her and that was often almost always a losing battle.  Not only did they have her (I think she was State MVP at least twice if not three or all four of her years), they also had a host of players behind her that could score from all parts of the court.  Jeni was one of those girls you weren’t sure you’d want to run into in an alley because you knew she had the tenacity and toughness to beat you up if she wanted to.  Which is definitely not a bad persona to carry around with you on the basketball court.

basketball back in the day

Back in the day – me playing defense when we lost the state championship in 2002 and Jeni scoring in a state championship win in either 2001 or 2003

They won the state championship every year I was in high school.  The only reason they didn’t win our junior year (Jeni and I were the same grad year) was because we beat them in the semis (can’t believe I found the article).  I only remember one thing about that game and that was having to play every position on the floor at one time or another.  Just picture a 6’1″ point guard in 1A girls basketball…very ridiculous.  There was also a bit of a pride thing on their end with their zip code…maybe it’s the way I’ve been told (or the way I remember) but they had state shirts printed up our senior year displaying “98812” to prove they were all from the same place and we weren’t (private Christian school = draws from a large area).  Which meant we recruited from elementary school because 80% of us had played together that long.  Neither here nor there but had to say it. 😉

All that to say, we were rivals.  Fierce rivals.  Sure, she had 3 state tournament championships and I had none; she was MVP multiple times and the best I’d done was 1st team all state.

I don’t know that I ever talked to her on – or off – the court.  Until we were both coaches at the 2013 state tournament.

I saw in the program that we were both back coaching for our alma maters and when we played them the second day, I worked up the courage to say hi to her.  Seems like not a big deal but one of the other assistant coaches (who had actually coached me during those rival years) and I talked awhile about whether or not she was nice.  What a ridiculous discussion!

When your game is up next at the Yakima Sundome, you have to wait at the corner of the court.  I happened to wait at the same corner as her and I struck up a conversation.  Basically, I introduced myself, she responded with something like, “I wondered if the Rachel Zupke listed as a coach was Rachel Strand from high school,” and me returning, “I was scared to say hi to you.”  (SERIOUSLY RACHEL?!?!?)  To which she replied something like, “Yeah, I’ve grown up a lot.”  Followed by lots of laughter.  From both of us.  Turns out she has an Etsy shop where she sells upcycled furniture and she’s since moved back home after playing college ball.

And now we’re friends.

We played in Hoopfest together this summer, we’ve had quite a few good chats over the last months, and she and her mom have stayed at our house when they have craft shows on this side of the mountains.  They even stayed when we were out of town – that shows you’re actually friends…when someone isn’t afraid to stay at your place when you’re not there. 🙂  The second time they came I convinced them to use our towels instead of bringing their own like they did the first time (so kind though – she didn’t want me coming home to laundry!).

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My sister Sarah, Jeni, and me at Hoopfest (shorty 😉 )

She has also generously hooked me up with fruit for canning as well as made Serafina the most adorable table for her birthday.  Not to mention how much she loves playing with Serafina.  I might even try to convince her boyfriend to take Ben hunting this fall depending on where Ben decides to go.

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Jeni and Serafina with her kiddo-sized picnic table!

We have definitely reminisced about those days way back when and she has definitely rubbed it in my face that I never got a championship.  I did remind her that we did beat them that one time and she remarked that we only won because she fouled so much.  I asked her who she fouled and she’s pretty sure it was me every time. 🙂

So…from rivalry to friendship.  It only took 10 years.  But I’m grateful for this new [old] friend and thought this would be a fun space to write about it.  Thanks, Jeni, for being so fun, real, honest, and giving!  I’m looking forward to more games of cribbage and chats about everything under the sun!

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