Jeff TullyAthletes who play softball for Sun...

Jeff Tully

Athletes who play softball for Sun Valley Village Christian School

don’t consider themselves members of a team.

If the standard dictionary definition of team is “a number of


persons associated in some joint action,” the Crusaders were much

more than that this season.

“We are family. You really can’t describe it any other way,” said

senior designated hitter and No. 2 pitcher Christina Delaney. “We are


very close and we would do anything for one another.”

The family atmosphere, coupled with an invaluable contribution

from a group of six players from Burbank, enabled the Crusaders to

put together the finest season in school history.

On June 6, the Crusaders became the first girls’ team in the

school’s 54-year history to win a CIF Southern Section championship.

Spearheaded by a key suicide-squeeze bunt in the sixth inning of the

Division V title game by resident Amy Servillo, Village Christian


defeated Pasadena Poly, 4-2, at Colonel Bill Barber Memorial Park in


“We were able to win the title because we are so close,” said

Delaney, who is considered the “mother” of the group.

Adding to the local flavor of the team is Coach Jim Stone, a

Burbank High graduate, and assistant Mike Delaney, who went to


Taking over the coaching duties this season, Stone -- whose


daughter, Laura, is the team’s starting catcher -- said the Crusaders

have something he has never experienced before.

“This is a very unique group of girls,” Jim Stone said. “The

chemistry and the unity are something I have never experienced before

with a team.”

Stone said the players have an inherent ability to check their

egos at the dugout and not bring any distractions with them on the


Sophomore outfielder Marissa Zubricky noticed the Crusader varsity

squad was something special when she first joined the team.

“I was on [junior varsity] most of the year, and I was brought up

to varsity for the playoffs,” she said. “This group is just so united

and the players really work together and don’t get down on one


Most of the local players like to call themselves “lifers,” having

attended Village Christian since kindergarten. So with their

commitment to the school, although they live in Burbank, there was no

question they were headed to Village Christian to attend high school.

One of the things that has strengthened their bond as a group is

the Crusader players have known one another for years -- even before

they started playing softball at Village Christian.

“Being a senior, there are times when I have to try and motivate

the other players and try and get them pumped up,” said Patricia

Servillo, a senior shortstop who will play at UC San Diego in the

fall. “I felt like I knew them well enough and I knew exactly what to

say to them to get them going.

“Some girls respond to anger, and some girls respond to other

things, so I was able tap into that because I knew them so well.”

Patricia’s sister Amy -- a junior third baseman -- said along with

the closeness, the players’ work ethic is something that also helped

propel the Crusaders to success.

“I have never been a part of a team that has worked so hard,” she

said. “All of these players worked very hard this season and it’s

like we belong together.”

Although they don’t attend a school in Burbank, five of the six

local Village Christian players learned softball and were brought up

playing in the city’s Park, Recreation and Community Services

Department Ponytail League.

All the girls agreed that playing in the Park and Rec league

helped them develop their athletic skills.

“When you go on to play travel ball, and in high school, it’s so

serious and so much emphasis is put on winning,” freshman left

fielder Jackie Ruiz said. “In Burbank, we learned the game and it was

fun. Back then, it didn’t matter that much if you lost. It was just

all about having fun.”

Jim Stone said he sees a definite advantage of getting players who

come to Village Christian after cutting their teeth in the local

youth league.

"[Mike Delaney and I] both coached in the Burbank Park and Rec

department,” he said. “We have seen, one year after another, the

girls who end up at Village, building up their skills and learning

the game of softball. And that learning has led to us being able to

win a title this year.

“When they come to Village, we aren’t having to teach them the

fundamentals of the sport. We are able to build on the skills they

have learned playing in the park league, and in travel ball.”

The experience obtained by the players on local diamonds like

Olive Park came to play in the title game against Pasadena Poly.

The Crusaders (22-6) fell behind in third inning, 1-0. However, a

fine showing in the sixth inning enabled them to change the momentum

of the game.

The key moment occurred when Amy Servillo -- the No. 4 hitter --

came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. On a 1-1 count,

Servillo laid down a perfect bunt, scoring Meghan Hanna to tie the

score. Alex Kinney was also able to score on the play on an errant

throw to the plate.

Village Christian scored two more runs in the inning to put itself

in the driver’s seat.

Although the Crusaders haven’t had much time to savor their

championship win, some players are already looking forward to next


“We will lose some key players, but I have the confidence we will

have the players to do well,” Laura Stone said.

“But whatever we do next year, it can never replace what we did

this year. You can never replace the first time you win a