SHE has been the dominant SBL player of the past three seasons and Ali Schwagmeyer hopes that journey ends with a championship with the Lakeside Lightning on Friday night before she turns her attention to a WNBL season with the Perth Lynx.
Schwagmeyer initially showed what she was capable with at the Kalamunda Eastern Suns in 2014 before returning to the SBL to play again under coach Craig Mansfield when he assumed the job at the Lightning in 2016.
It has now been a three-year journey for the pair at the Lightning that has seen Schwagmeyer win the last two MVP awards while Lakeside improved to reach the quarter finals in 2016, semi finals in 2017 and now have a dominant 2018 season.
With Schwagmeyer at the forefront of the Lightning team still supported by Sydnee Fipps, Ash Grant, Sam Roscoe, Courtney Byrnes, Jess van Schie and company, they lost only once all season ahead of Friday’s Grand Final against the Mandurah Magic at Bendat Basketball Centre.
BYRNES HOPING FOR ICING ON CAKE OF SPECIAL LAKESIDE YEAR
MANSFIELD PROUD OF LIGHTNING AS HE LEARNS FROM GRAND FINAL PAST
FIPPS HOPING TO ‘MIC DROP’ ON CAREER WITH LIGHTNING CHAMPIONSHIP
MOYLE GRATEFUL TO MAKE IT BACK FOR LIGHTNING IN TITLE PUSH
Schwagmeyer has committed herself and dedicated herself to the Lightning the past three years now with the ultimate eye of earning her citizenship to be able to play as a local in the WNBL.
That has now happened and she has been signed by the Perth Lynx for the 2018/19 WNBL season, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t just as committed to bringing success to Lakeside as well.
She has been chasing a championship for a long time and there would be nowhere she has played where it would mean any more than bringing a Women’s SBL title to Lakeside for the first time since 2006.
“It would mean so much to me. Me and Syd (Fipps) always make jokes about how in our whole career whether it was high school, college or over in Europe that we’ve got so close to a championship every time and fallen short,” Schwagmeyer said.
“If we were able to win one, it would mean so much for that but also just for this whole team. It would be the perfect ending to an amazing season with amazing girls.
“It’s so great just to make it this far in the playoffs and that’s a testament to the whole team in general. You can have a great player on any team but it’s so hard to have just a great player and make it to a championship.
“In order to win a championship you have to have a whole team, and that’s what makes it so special is that I’ve been at this club for three years and other than a couple of additions, it’s pretty much the same core group. To be able to do it with a core group that you love and enjoy being with on and off the court just makes it so special.”
The other fascinating aspect of Friday night’s Women’s SBL Grand Final is the fact that it’s the Lightning up against the Magic in a rematch of what was an intense and dramatic three-game semi-final series last year.
Mandurah prevailed on that occasion and as much as Schwagmeyer has tried to get over it, she hasn’t been able to completely and she’s looking forward to now facing the Magic in the Grand Final.
“I’m a really competitive person and as much as you want balance in your life and not hold onto things, and you know you can’t erase the past games and change what happens, but that loss last year is definitely something that really hurt,” she said.
“Not because it was just me, but because our team was so close and Mandurah played a great series and so did we, and it literally came down to seven points. It will be fun to be able to compete against them again now in a Grand Final.”
When Mansfield was appointed coach at Lakeside in 2016, Schwagmeyer was only too willing to return to the SBL to play under him for a second time after that first adventure together at Kalamunda in 2014.
Ever since, she couldn’t have been made to feel more at home at Lakeside and she couldn’t have enjoyed the past three years any more.
“Craig’s a great coach and I’ve played for him at the Suns too a couple of years before that, and he just has such a way of building a program and making a team, not just assembling good players,” Schwagmeyer said.
“He has a way, if given the resources, of bringing a team together and also the club at Lakeside has been great. It’s been amazing in giving us the resources to build this team and I always had faith that we were building to this point but it was a bit of a rocky start.
“I feel such a connection to Lakeside and that’s exactly what it’s felt like my whole time here. if I did come back to the SBL it would only be for Lakeside and Craig because I have that connection.
“Lakeside is such a community that it almost feels like you have family here inside the club and then with Craig as well as a coach. If I was ever going to come back it would be in that situation.”
A big change at Lakeside over the past two years has been Schwagmeyer’s dynamic duo formed with the soon-to-be-retired Sydnee Fipps.
The pair are quite the unstoppable pairing and that’s not to say it’s not a deep Lakeside squad with plenty of other weapons, but Schwagmeyer isn’t surprised she’s decided to retire to return to Fresno State University to get a Master’s degree in sports management.
“I’m definitely not shocked because she was debating that last season but we are so cool that we got her to come back she loved us that much,” Schwagmeyer said.
“I’m not really shocked or anything, I think she’s just ready for that next phase of her life and in order to be a professional player it’s tough. It’s great when you have a great team but you still miss your family and friends back at home. She’s just moving onto that next stage of her life.”
Schwagmeyer has also committed herself to staying in Australia to earn citizenship in order to be able to be classified a local in the WNBL.
With that having happened, she is rewarded with a contract at the Perth Lynx and is looking forward to focusing on that following Friday’s Grand Final.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity and I’ve just stayed patient, and continued to grind the last couple of years I’ve been here,” she said.
“I could have gone over and played in European in between these SBL series, but I really wanted to play in the WNBL so I made that my goal and tried to have tunnel vision.
“Thank god I got my residency and Andy and the Lynx have been great to me. I’m excited about what’s ahead with the Lynx.”
Schwagmeyer has been battling a knee complaint in the back end of the season too forcing her even to miss Game 1 of the semi finals against Kalamunda, but she’s confident it will be right to go in the Grand Final and beyond.
“It just needed a little bit of rest. I’ve been going back to back seasons for about three years so these last couple of weeks of rest have been tremendous for my knee, and body in general,” Schwagmeyer said.
“I’m really excited having had that rest going into the Grand Final and the Lynx season.”