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The first time I interacted with Monique Cavness was the third week of practice. I was a new recruit. It was our first practice, my first time playing in The Nest. Mo yelled at me for repeatedly messing up a play during practice. She sounded like a father yelling at his disobedient child. I was baffled. 

I do not like getting yelled at, especially by a person I barely know. Normally, I’d respond with an eye roll or argue but, in that moment, I just took it in. I didn’t get defensive or even feel attacked. That’s when I knew we would be friends – because if I didn’t have a negative reaction to her yelling at me, that meant I respected her. I respected the fact that she didn’t sugar coat anything and got straight to the point. I respected that she was a leader – not a conceited one who thought she was better than all of us, but one who wanted us to do better than her. 

“I thought I was going to kill all the freshmen coming in,” Mo said.  

Eventually, we became close friends. Our coach hilariously describes us as a panda bear who adopted a koala. Mo is an intimidating 5-foot-11 bruiser-forward with broad shoulders, a big ol’ head and a soft heart from Richmond, California. I’m an adorable 5-foot-3 guard with an unforgettable face who lives on quickness, with an attitude on 10 and mouth on 100 from the valley. As a result, everytime words came out of my mouth Mo had to interject to make sure I didn’t say anything uncalled for. So, I get the picture the coach is painting. 

Our bond didn’t grow on the court, though. It happened in class. We took Intro to Mass Media together and always went out after. I knew she was gonna keep me on track with all I needed to get done. And there was a lot. Five classes. Basketball. On top of it all, I tore my ACL: rehab was a factor too. Mo was my anchor. 

She was the same for women’s basketball at Las Positas.

When Sydney Breckenridge (black pants) joined the Hawks women’s basketball team, Monique Cavness (22) became her mentor and eventually her good friend.

From her freshman year, Mo was the foundation on which this program was built. She received an All-American honorable mention. She led all California junior college women in rebounding. This year, she finished second in the state in rebounding and was named second-team All-Coast Conference. 

She wasn’t the lone star this season. Kierstin Constantino was like our Steph Curry, setting records for threes while leading us in scoring. Kyshanti King is a baller, too, and Joyce Mulumba grabbed even more rebounds than Mo.

But Mo’s significance goes well beyond stats and records and into intangible areas. When Coach Caleb Theodore took over, he was rejuvenating a dead program that endured years of losing before being taken out by the pandemic. Coach restarted everything with Mo’s back.

At some point, the Hawks women’s hoops will accomplish more and continue to create history. It will post winning records and even get back to the playoffs. When that day comes, people should remember Mo. She was our rock.

“Mo showed a level of maturity into the program,” Theodore said, “at a very necessary time of getting our program established.”

As a freshman, the transition to a new school and a new team was nerve-racking. I came from a team that lacked connection and communication. I’ve always been more of a defensive player because plays have always been a difficult thing for me to comprehend. I’ve played basketball since I was nine but never thought seriously of playing in college – it was more or less a hobby. It was an impulsive decision to join the team. Luckily for me Coach Caleb developed players, so despite my lack of film and the lack of confidence in my game, I still made the team.  

I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Usually, when you don’t know what you’re getting into, struggle follows. Many of the freshmen, including myself, had a rough start to the season. But I had Mo. The sophomore who saved me. 

The way she was yelling at me that day, I would have never guessed she would be the person I went to for advice. The person who always seemed to know what I needed at the moment. The person who could calm me down and lift me up. The person who got me to focus and reminded me to do better. She has taught me to not just listen to people but to hear and understand them. Like she understood me. 

Most of all, she was the person who kept me going through the biggest injury of my career.

Sep. 7, 2023, was a practice to remember. We were doing a drill and I put all my weight on my right leg and felt my knee shift. It felt as if my knee popped in, and then out. As I collapsed to the ground, I dropped the F bomb and hopped off court so my team could get back to the drill. I immediately started limping on it thinking it was just a sprained knee, but I couldn’t straighten it for the life of me. It took several weeks for me to bend it at a right angle. Once this was possible,  I was able to jump and jog with no problem. Friends and teammates couldn’t believe I was hurt because of how physically active I was. In that way, I didn’t want to believe it either.   

When my MRI results came back revealing a torn ACL, the first person I called was Mo. I was ugly crying, too. “I don’t know what to do! My season’s over!” She talked me through it until I was ready to accept the fact that I was injured. Then I had to tell the results to our coach.

When I needed her most, she was there for me. 

But that’s Mo. She is always there when you need her. If you are among those within her chosen inner-circle, you can count on Mo to take care of you. She takes pride in it.

The Hawks went 6-20 in the 2019-20 season. The pandemic hit, shutting down basketball the following season. Then in 2021-22, the Hawks simply didn’t field a team. The school hired Coach Theodore in April 2022. 

His tenure started as rough as you’d expect for a program that hadn’t been active in two years. The Hawks lost their first 19 games, four by forfeit because they didn’t have enough players and another five games by 40 or more points.  

Their worst loss was against San Francisco on Jan. 27, 2023. The Hawks were down 69-17 at half time on the road. They ended up losing by 76 points. It was their 15th straight game taking the court and losing. Mo had enough.

The next game, she had 20 points and 22 rebounds against Gavilan, leading the Hawks to their first win under Theodore. It was that kind of mindset that leaves this program in a better place. Mo didn’t quit. Instead, she fought harder. The Hawks didn’t have many players who could make shots at a high rate. So Mo decided she would dominate the boards.

“She manifested that she wanted to lead the state in rebounds,” Theodore said, “and she did that.”

Cavness stated all 47 games in her Las Positas tenure, averaging 13.1 points, 18.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in two seasons.

Mo didn’t get down. Despite all the losses, she was never defeated. Each time, she got back out there and kept going. That spirit is why the program is in such a better place now.

We finished 6-19 this season. That doesn’t look great on paper, but it’s leagues better than 3-24. Last season, we had eight losses by 30 more. This season, just six times. We even won two games by more than 40 points. Our three wins last season totaled a combined 24 points. Our future looks brighter because Mo anchored the program.

She brought an exceptional work ethic to the team — once she actually got to practice, because, even Mo wasn’t above showing up five or 10 minutes late. Or 20. I witnessed just how hard she works. She spent time individually with our teammates to teach them how to score from and defend the post. She took Mulumba under her wing, giving her the tricks of the craft and passing her the crown as the state’s leading rebounder. 

As a sophomore, Theodore expected Mo to step up as a leader. She thrived in that role. She made a connection with all of us newcomers. Every time one of us had a bad practice, Mo was usually the first to come talk to us. She always knows what to say and how to say it.

She became less a teammate and more like a mom who took care of me and the 10 other “children” she was forced to take care of. She never complained. For me, she’s long since stopped being just a teammate. She will forever be more. Forever be my friend. Forever a part of my family.

We were blood, if not that, then stronger. So much so, as the season came to an end, I found myself low-key panicking. What am I going to do without Mo next year? Like, actually. 

I know she’s moving on to bigger and better things. As she moves on from the Hawks, she leaves behind a legacy of leadership and growth. It should never be forgotten how she paved the way to the future. Whatever happens next, she is a pillar.

“To achieve greatness you must cut a piece of yourself off to grow,” Mo said. “I’ve planted that piece of me in this program and have watched everyone bloom from it.”

Sydney Breckenridge is the Arts & Entertainment editor for The Express. Follow her on X, formally Twitter, @SydBreckenridge.

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