Metea Valley senior Lori Obendorf and the Mustangs’ fledgling program have grown up in lockstep.
Her sophomore year, her first on varsity, was also the program’s first varsity season. She was knocked around in the post as the Mustangs struggled to a seven wins in their debut campaign.
Then as a junior, she averaged 12.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game as the Mustangs finished the season over .500 for the first time. But she and the Mustangs topped all of that this season.
Obendorf, The Beacon-News Girls Basketball Player of the Year, averaged 15.8 points and 11.7 rebounds per game to lead Metea Valley to a 22-7 record.
“She was always a hard worker, even as a freshman,” Metea Valley coach Kris Kalivas said. “They took a beating their sophomore year, especially Lori in the post. She just wasn’t strong enough yet. To see where she started and see where she ended up is just amazing and really a compliment to how hard she worked.”
Coming off last season’s success, with a trio of seniors back led by Obendorf and her close friend Anna Petersen in the post and outside shooting threat Bria Walker, the team was poised to make a big jump this season.
“Last year when we got over .500, it was a really good experience and it showed that we were capable of playing well,” Obendorf said. “Coming into this season, we were very confident.”
While the team did experience its best season in the short history of the program, the Mustangs have a bit of a what-could-have-been feeling now that it’s all over. Petersen went down with a season-ending injury in December, putting even more pressure on Obendorf on the block. Then in January, Walker went down, allowing teams to further sag on Obendorf in the post.
“It was really tough losing them,” Obendorf said. “That is not what we were expecting. Anna is not only a great player, but my best friend. Not having her on the court was difficult and I had a hard time with it. We met as a team and decided what kind of team we were going to be. We were able to show people that we lost Anna, but we could move on as a team.”
Perhaps no performance exemplified what Obendorf was able to accomplish under difficult circumstances than the Mustangs’ 62-44 loss to rival Neuqua Valley in the regional title game. Obendorf scored 24 points to go with 15 rebounds and four blocks as she did all she could to extend her high school career and the Metea Valley’s impressive season.
“It was tough for her when Anna went down because they relied on each other so much,” Kalivas said. “She took it upon herself at that point to step up even more. She said she would do the best she could to cover for Anna, and I think she did that. She definitely dominated down low and was tough to stop.”
Perhaps no area coach knows a player as well as Kalivas knows Obendorf. Like Kalivas, a North Central College Hall of Fame inductee in the fall, Obendorf plays both basketball and softball, and Kalivas coaches both at Metea. So she knows exactly what kind of balancing act Obendorf, a first baseman on the softball team, has to perform.
“I’m really lucky to have had her (as coach) for eight seasons,” Obendorf said. “She really knows what she’s doing and I learned a lot from her in both sports. Even though we joke about being stuck together, it’s gotten to be a blessing. We had a great time and got to know each other so well.”
Obendorf is off to play basketball at Loras College in the fall. But coming in and helping to set a benchmark for the program and establishing a tradition in a new school is something she is proud of.
“Everything was new,” Obendorf said. “We had to set the tradition ourselves and decide what kind of program we were going to be.”