Last May, Lucy Olsen was invited to try out for the USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The then-sophomore at Spring-Ford tested her skills at the U.S. Olympic Training Center among a pool of the best 156 players in the country. And while Olsen was among the initial cut group as the national team whittled to a 12-player squad, there were lessons to be gained.
“I got to play with a lot of really great players. It was cool to see all the elite players and recognize there was a lot more I could get better at. I think I learned I have a lot of room for improvement,” Olsen said.
Her other key takeaway: “I did not play as aggressive as I should have.”
That lesson felt front of mind on Feb. 12 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game against Methacton.
Since stepping foot on court for Spring-Ford as a freshman, Olsen has been an impact player. But despite her all-around excellence, she isn’t always the biggest personality on the court.
So it was hard to not notice the fire Olsen brought as the Rams chased a third straight league title.
“I wanted to win so badly,” she said. “Methacton is such a good team and I just really wanted to beat them. I hate losing to them, hate losing in general. I just wanted to come out there and do everything I could to get the win.
“All of us were so pumped. The whole team, the coaches, we were just fired up. It was the PAC ‘chip. My adrenaline was so high. I think that just took over.”
Olsen ripped off 12 first-half points – she finished with 14 and 10 rebounds – to lead Spring-Ford to an 11-point halftime lead that stuck down the stretch to win their third meeting with the Warriors, 47-39, and complete the Rams’ three-peat.
For the second straight season Olsen led the area in scoring – her 19.3 points per game and 543 points were a single-season record for Spring-Ford – and propelled the Rams to another PAC title, the District 1-6A semifinals and the second round of the PIAA tournament. And for the second straight season, Olsen is The Mercury’s All-Area Player of the Year.
“Lucy is committed to being the best that she can be,” said Spring-Ford head coach Mickey McDaniel. “She will do whatever it takes to be the best that she can be, but also to make her team the best it can be.
“She has set some records and will continue to set more, but that’s not her true goal in high school basketball. It’s about winning league, district and state championships, her and her team.”
Olsen surpassed 1,000 career points on Jan. 12 against Pottstown, a rare accomplishment for a junior. Only three other PAC girls have achieved the feat in the past 15 years – Pottstown’s Aiesha Harper (Class of 2008), Methacton’s Renee Womack (2008) and Boyertown’s Abby Kapp (2017).
“With her joining the 1,000 point club and going up the ladder of our all-time leaders list, and setting the individual season scoring record, you see her growing and gaining more experience in life and the game, you see that maturity coming out even more that says, ‘That’s nice, but it’s about my teammates and about our team,’” McDaniel said.
“That became a very bright light. Sometimes when people are going toward individual records, you can see where their mindset is. Hers was not toward that mindset at all.”
Consistent and always team-first, Olsen has always had drive. Entering her junior year, she focused on a different kind of drive.
“I wanted to get better at getting to the basket,” Olsen said. “I feel like I shot a lot of threes, which is fine, but I wanted to expand my game so I could involve mid-range, 3s and getting to the basket to hopefully get to the foul line more.
“I really wanted to work on my passing. That’s my main goal this summer, is to really get better with my passing. I started improving but I definitely could be a lot better at passing and I think that would open the floor for everyone. I think we could be a lot better if I get better at passing.”
“Now, her ability to go to the basket, to eurostep, to finish in different ways, the way she can finish at the rim now, she’s really stepped that part of her game up,” McDaniel said. “You definitely saw improvement this year and will continue to see it because of work ethic and love and passion for basketball and she also wants to play Division I basketball and she’s driven to attain that goal and get to the highest level she can.”
Expanding her game offensively comes in most handy while suiting up for Spring-Ford. At the AAU level with Lady Runnin’ Rebels, Olsen plays alongside the region’s best such as two-time Daily Local News Player of the Year Bella Smuda of Downingtown East and Inter-Ac MVP Jaye Haynes of Germantown Academy and isn’t asked to carry the scoring load.
“It was really different,” Olsen said of her role between AAU and Spring-Ford. “Our AAU team has Bella Smuda from Downingtown East, Jaye Haynes from GA so I didn’t have to score as much. My role is to take care of the ball and make the right play. I wasn’t relied on for scoring every game, I just had to create, play great defense, get a few steals, make great passes.
“This year with Spring-Ford, we had so many important seniors that graduated that we really had to fill their positions, so I knew all of us had to step up.”
Olsen answered the call, proving a remarkably consistent scorer – she scored less than 15 points only three times in the regular season – while carrying a weight defensively, especially in light of the long term absence of junior standout Emily Tiffan.
Spring-Ford was again the class of the Pioneer Athletic Conference – a league that sent three teams to the PIAA tournament – but did suffer its first league loss in two seasons at Methacton on Jan. 16.
The Rams and Warriors met for the final installment of the trilogy – after Spring-Ford topped another rival, Owen J. Roberts, in the semifinals – in the championship and Olsen brought the aforementioned fire for the PAC threepeat.
Spring-Ford met Owen J. Roberts for the fourth time in the second round of the District 1-6A tournament and the result was the same as the first 3: a well-earned Spring-Ford win.
“I was proud of our team for being focused every game,” Olsen said. “Just because we won the last three against them, I think we all knew that they’re a good team and at any time they could come out and beat us so we really had to bring out ‘A’ game every single time. I think our team did a great job of that each time and bringing the energy.”
The duration of Spring-Ford’s postseason run was almost like deja vu in comparison to 2018-19: the Rams reached the district semifinals but fell in a heartbreaker, lost convincingly in their seeding playback, entered states as District 1’s No. 4 team, topped a District 11 opponent before playing close but ultimately falling to District 12 champion Cardinal O’Hara in the second round.
“They are painfully similar. I’m just frustrated that we did the same thing both years,” Olsen said. “We didn’t really adjust enough I guess because we knew what was coming (against Cardinal O’Hara).
“That was frustrating for me that I didn’t do enough to win this year. But hopefully third time is a charm that we can win next year. We have to learn from these past two years and improve as a team to get it next year.
“I’m hoping next year we can win districts and states. That’s what I really want out of these four years: I wanted to win at least two PAC championships, and district and a state ‘chip. I still have to get those last two and that’s really all I’m looking for.”