Mara Benvenuti has played for the Saint Vincent women’s basketball team since her freshman year, and now joins 26 other players from the team’s history to reach the 1,000-point milestone. The last player to reach it was Taylor Mathers in the 2014-2015 season.
Benvenuti noted it was such a great moment because of how her teammates reacted.
“My teammates went nuts, and had funny signs made that they held up while cheering. That’s what made the moment so special. The support from my team means everything, because I couldn’t have done it without them,” said Benvenuti.
For Benvenuti, the accomplishment means so much more to her than just having her name posted up in the Carey Center Gymnasium. In December of 2016, just eight games into her senior season, she tore her ACL, which was thought to have ended her career.
She graduated with a bachelor of science in psychology in May 2017. But Benvenuti had unfinished business with the Bearcats. She wanted to come back and play, but wasn’t sure how she would pull it off.
After looking into Saint Vincent’s masters programs and applying to be a residence hall director, everything came together for her. Benvenuti decided to pursue her master’s degree in education counseling, allowing her to gain another year of eligibility and play for one more season. Her job as RHD of Bonaventure Hall covers her tuition and room and board.
Currently averaging nine points and six rebounds per game, and having started in every contest, Benvenuti has helped the Bearcats excel to a 9-3 record in the PAC, and 12-7 overall.
Head coach Jimmy Petruska speaks highly of Benvenuti and her influence on the team.
“Mara’s return to our team this year has had a huge impact overall. She has provided leadership and experience to a very young and inexperienced team. Her demeanor and commitment on and off the court has been a great example for our young players to follow. She has also shown how patience, resilience and determination can pay off by coming back from her knee injury,” Petruska said.
Teammate Paige Montrose, sophomore math and economics major, also mentioned how Benvenuti’s return has impacted her and the rest of the team.
“Mara is the strongest person I’ve played with. She came back after her surgery stronger and even more motivated to play. She’s inspired us all to appreciate and love the game,” said Montrose.
Benvenuti has had a great career overall, starting early in her freshman year. She asserted herself as a dominant player and earned her spot to start 17 games. She also led the team with 62 steals. Her sophomore and junior years, Benvenuti consistently filled the stat sheets with points, rebounds, assists and steals, earning her second team All-PAC honors for both seasons.
Despite having her senior year cut short after just eight games, Benvenuti was still awarded with an All-PAC honorable mention selection, a testament to her skill and the respect she has garnered from other coaches in the conference.
Petruska explained how the growth he’s seen from Benvenuti has made her a remarkable player.
“Since Mara’s freshmen year, she has grown in all areas that have helped shape her into the person she is right now,” Petruska said.
“Her self-confidence and ability to lead has to be the biggest development I’ve seen in Mara over her career. I am overly impressed with how she has grown and always proud on how she represents our women’s basketball team and institution here at Saint Vincent,” Petruska said.
Benvenuti explained that she hopes the impact she leaves with the team is positive, one that inspires them to always play hard and enjoy every moment.
“If you’re not having fun, there’s no point. I want my teammates to cherish every moment, because it goes by so fast,” Benvenuti said.
Photos: SVC Athletics