As a team with five freshmen and four sophomores, Virginia AAA Northern Region champion Edison does not have many varsity letters among its members.
The Eagles have found motivation from another type of letters, however, correspondence from players from the program’s recent past, words that have helped frame and define their season.
Edison players from the 2006 and 2007 state runner-up teams have sent e-mails that are read aloud to the team, often before particularly important games. The former players are old enough to have gained perspective on their high school years but young enough to be more like big sisters than adults, relatability that lends their thoughts added credence.
Edison (24-4) opens state tournament play at 5 p.m. Friday at Robinson against Northwest Region runner-up Colonial Forge (25-3) from Stafford County.
“The blood, sweat, tears, frustration, physical and mental pain only produced joy, laughter, success, passion, friendship, and life lessons that you can never substitute,” wrote Caitlin Hayes, a 2008 Edison graduate, in an early-season letter to the team. “I look back on my time there and I have zero regrets, and every time I think about my memories and experiences I have a smile on my face and pride in my heart. This is the legacy that we have left for you. . . . It is now YOUR program.”
“When you miss touching the line by an inch running suicides, you are not just cheating yourself,” wrote 2007 Edison graduate Caitlin Counts. “Every inch adds up. Losing the State Championship by one point, two years in a row, doesn’t conjure up flashbacks of either game. Instead, I think of all of the times we showed up unfocused to practice or committed silly mistakes that would often repeat themselves in games.”
Edison assistant Shawnee Lewis, Coach Dianne Lewis’s daughter and a member of those region champion teams, played at Virginia Wesleyan, where her coach used a similar technique in which former players wrote to the current ones. The Lewises thought this would be a way to reach their young players and make them more aware of the program’s history and their own potential.
“The main thing that we get out of these letters is motivation,” said sophomore guard Lindsey Krisak, who used to watch those 2006 and ’07 teams play. “They always say to leave everything on the court every game, because you never know, it could be your last game. That personally helped me a lot, because I felt that I was holding back. But now that we started listening to those letters from former players, it really helps me play my best.”
“They’re talking about how every single second counts, which it does,” said Edison senior forward Sheila Sherrill, who also attended games in 2006 and 2007. “I already looked at it that way, but the letters opened it up to a wider view.”
“It meant a little bit more because they actually went far,” said freshman guard Jada Graves, the region tournament MVP, who scored 22 points in the second half of the championship win over South Lakes. “So what they’re telling, the proof is in the pudding. Losing twice by one point in the state championship, that’s a heartbreaker. I want to win the state championship for them.”
Sherrill’s sister, Ruth, a 2012 Edison graduate playing at Hofstra, sent the team an inspirational video message before the region final win over South Lakes, a game the Eagles trailed by 17 in the second quarter.
The letters so far have been from role players, not the stars from those teams, two-time All-Met Doreena Campbell (who played at UCLA) and Adria Crawford (who played at Georgetown and now is an assistant at Longwood). Chasity Clayton, who played on the 2007 team, is a senior forward at Florida State.
“Just the fact that they know that those girls are watching and paying attention — it’s not pressure, it’s just wanting to please them,” Dianne Lewis said. “They didn’t just graduate and leave. They still care about the program. I really want them to know the foundation that those girls have laid for them so that they can build on that. I really think that it’s hitting home with them.
“We could say it all day long. It’s like your parents saying it to you. But to hear it from them, it connected. It was just that motivating factor that they needed.”