Year off helps Cabe rediscover passion for playing
Feb. 24, 2010
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
by DAVID RASBACH - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Willow Cabe admits it wasn't an easy decision to walk away from the Western Washington University women's basketball team shortly before the start of her junior year at the school.
"I was playing with the idea all summer long," Cabe said. "At the end of the summer, I just kind of sprang it on (Vikings coach Carmen Dolfo) at the last second. It was a very hard thing for me to do."
If it was difficult for Cabe to make the decision, imagine what it was like for Dolfo and her coaching staff to hear the news that they would be losing one of the players they were expecting big things from during the 2007-08 season.
"We were so upset, because she is such a talented player," Dolfo said in a phone interview. "We had some hard times that year, because we lost some players to injuries, and we really could have used her. But by the same token, I realize that people have to find their own path. For Willow, this was the best thing she could have done for herself."
As it turned out, it ended up helping the Vikings in the long run, too.
Cabe returned to the team a year later with a renewed focus and has developed into one of the Vikings' best all-around players.
Now a senior, Cabe and her WWU teammates will host Great Northwest Athletic Conference rival Central Washington in a 7 p.m. game on Thursday, Feb. 25 at Sam Carver Gymnasium.
It was missing games like those during her year off from basketball that eventually drew Cabe back to the sport and back to the school.
"Being away from basketball was pretty hard on me," the forward said. "That time off made me realize just how precious these four years of playing college basketball really are to me. ... It was probably four or five months in, and I started thinking about playing on a city-league team, and I went and watched (Western) play at Saint Martin's. That's when I really started to miss it."
Though she had sat out a year and would have been eligible to consider transferring schools, Cabe said that thought never crossed her mind.
"She took the year off, and that ended up being the best thing for her," Dolfo said. "But I think the one thing that was great was that she came back here. She did leave here for a year, and we were sad, but I think she showed her true character by coming back. She came back to her teammates and this program. She didn't take the easy way out and go somewhere else."
Cabe came back refreshed, not just in basketball, but in just about every element of her life, including academics.
She's now closing in on a degree in English with a minor in Spanish, and said she may consider becoming a teacher in the future.
And after getting her legs back under her on the basketball court, she's shined.
"It takes a while to get back in the flow of the game and get used to working with your team again," Dolfo said. "Toward the end of last year, she started looking like the player we remembered out there on the court. She began to be such a huge factor for the team again."
She's definitely carried that over into this season.
Cabe, who came to Western out of Elma High School, enters Thursday's game third on the team in scoring behind Amanda Dunbar and Jessica Summers, averaging 14.1 points per game. She's also second to Dunbar with 6.0 rebounds per game, second in blocked shots with 1.1 per game and fourth in assists (2.4 average).
Dolfo said she also puts Cabe on an opponent's best offensive player in most games.
"Willow is just such a great athlete," Dolfo said. "(Former WWU men's player) Tyler Amaya comes in and practices with us every day. She's the one who guards him, and that has really helped her become a confident player. She's really matured as a player. She sees the value of playing strong on both ends of the court. ... At 6-1 and playing No. 3 for us, there's nobody in the league that can physically stop her. She's always one of the best athletes on the floor."
With only three games remaining in the regular season, Cabe's time with the program is once again drawing to an end. But she still has plenty left to accomplish before she bids the Vikings goodbye for a second time.
"We only have the three conference games left, and I would love to win all three of them," Cabe said. "Then I'd like to see us go on and win the regional tourney and go to the Elite 8. My goal - our goal - all along has been to do that ... We have the athletes and a really talented team. It's just coming together and being more disciplined. If we do that, I think we're capable of beating anybody."
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