It's hard to say there's a generation gap between Kelsey Livoti and her teammates just because she's about the only one old enough to have a clear memory of when Justin Timberlake was in 'N Sync, but, when you are in your teens, sometimes 2 years can feel like decades.
That's when it helps Livoti, the only senior in a Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School girls basketball starting lineup comprised otherwise of sophomores, shows her maturity by thinking back to what it was like when she was their age.
"My hardest year was probably my sophomore year because I was expected to be a top player, and I was just not mentally prepared,'' Livoti said. "I feel like I've come a long way from that point to now.''
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Kelsey Livoti is the only senior in BG's starting lineup.
The team has come a long way with her. Despite its youth, Bishop Guilfoyle is on track for its third consecutive PIAA Class A championship, taking a 28-1 record into Wednesday night's clash with District 6 runner-up Homer-Center at St. Francis College in the state semifinals.
Livoti, as the matriarch of the team, is both happy and relieved to see the success continue under her watch.
"It definitely means a lot this year to get this far, because there's definitely a lot of pressure on us because of Kaleigh [Floyd] and Alli [Williams] leaving,'' Livoti said. "We had a lot to prove, and making it this far means a lot to me with me being the only senior. I feel a lot of pressure, but I'm enjoying it so much because I've gotten really close with the team this year.''
"At practice, she's really encouraging to everyone,'' Guilfoyle sophomore Halee Adams said of Livoti, who she first met as summer league teammates when she was in sixth grade and found to be initially intimidating. "We'll be scrimmaging, she's encouraging us and telling us to play our best. We don't goof around at practice, but we're all really close. She's really fun with us.''
It's a remarkably mature balancing act for someone so young herself. Livoti and Chelsea Kerr are the only seniors on the BG roster. Livoti was the only non-freshman to letter last season.
"Once you get to be a senior, you feel you have to be there for your team. You have to be strong at those times when it's hard to be. You have to pick your team up when things aren't going your way. That's just how it's been since I've been here. Every senior has taken that role,'' Livoti said, "and I wanted to do that for my team.''
"Just because I am a little bit by myself as far as playing time, it definitely has been tough. But I've learned to push through that,'' Livoti said.
Lady Marauder coach Mark Moschella realized it wouldn't be easy for his 5-foot-11 guard/forward.
"Before the season started, Kelsey and I had a really nice meeting together exactly to the role that she was going to need to take,'' Moschella said. "She knew if for some reason she couldn't do it, somebody else was going to have to step into that role. She didn't need anyone to step into that role. She did a good job at practice and has played very consistently throughout the year.''
Livoti seems like she's all business on the court, willing to take a big shot in crunch time or the physical challenge of an opponent like Monessen's Mariah Ward in a PIAA second-round game last week. But Livoti will be the first to tell you she wasn't always that person.
"As a sophomore, I was not mentally tough at all. I was nervous, like, outrageously nervous,'' Livoti said. "As the years went on, I'm really proud of myself that I am prepared mentally. That was the biggest challenge for myself, and that's the goal I wanted to overcome, because that was my biggest problem. Not anything physically. I knew I could do it there.
"I feel like I've become a lot tougher over the years.''
Adams has noticed a different Livoti this season.
"Last year, there were a lot of seniors, so all of us underclassmen were laid back. We just did whatever they did,'' Adams said. "This year, Kelsey takes control in the game when we need it, and, in the locker room, she's coming up with stuff before we run out. She's always pumping us up.''
Livoti's responsibilities have changed on the court, too. Always a guard since her grandmother gave her a Fisher-Price mini-hoop when she was 3, Livoti became forward-sized after a freshman growth spurt. However, with Williams taking her 5-11 frame to St. Francis University, Moschella now needed Livoti to play in the paint on defense.
"I really didn't know [what to expect] because all her career she's been out on the perimeter defensively,'' Moschella said. "Being that we were not a team with great size, someone had to take on that responsibility. Kelsey's tall and she's long, and now I've got to hope she can make that adjustment. I really feel she's taken on rebounding as just as big a responsibility as what the scorebook shows.''
Livoti, who used to play volleyball when her dad, Frank, was the coach and has taken basketball lessons from former St. Francis forward Tom Fox over the years, is third on the team in rebounding and also an imposing shot-blocker.
"Actually, I've taken a liking to [inside defense],'' Livoti said. "On offense, though, I love being a guard.''
It shows. Even though she is their tallest player, Livoti leads the Lady Marauders in 3-pointers and is second in scoring.
"It's amazing. She's an awesome shooter. I wish I could do that,'' Adams said.
That should help Livoti at the next level. While she's still uncommitted, she's leaning toward joining the team at Juniata College next year, where the role she's played as a versatile player and a leader this season will come in handy.
It's been a long time in the works for a self-proclaimed homebody whose favorite pastime is relaxing at home with family and friends watching television.
Her favorite show? Appropriately, it's "That 70s Show.'' But Livoti is happy to keep the past on television and look to the future in reality.
"As a sophomore, I never thought I'd get to where I am at this point, just in terms of being strong enough and dealing with everything that comes at me,'' Livoti said.