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The first day together in the gym, Nicole D’Agostino began instructing her teammates, telling them where to go and conveying what the coaching staff was asking for.

Bozeman head coach Kati Mobley realized D’Agostino is a leader by example. The Hawks graduated six seniors from last season, so Mobley understood D’Agostino would need to take on an important role.

D’Agostino will look to lead the Hawks (0-6) to victory when they play at rival Gallatin (0-6) at 5:45 p.m. Friday. Though the 5-foot-9 senior confessed taking on the responsibilities of a senior feels odd.

“It’s just different,” she said. “We got the new coaches, new girls on the team. It’s just different. So I think everyone is stepping into their roles to fill those positions.”

D’Agostino is among a substantial number of athletes in her family. Among them, Jake is a former Bozeman Hawk and plays for the Montana State football team.

“There’s a few of us,” she said with a laugh. “I grew up with a lot of sports in my family, so that was always something I was interested in.”

D’Agostino began playing basketball at an early age. It’s a fun game, she said, but on top of that she’s gained friendships and has been taught myriad life lessons.

“You can always try your hardest and you don’t always get what you want,” D’Agostino said. “There’s a lot of things to learn from that. Just great relationships, and coaches are great mentors.”

The postseason her sophomore year is among her favorite memories. At the Eastern AA Divisional, Addi Ekstrom hit a buzzer-beater to send Bozeman and Great Falls into overtime. The Hawks eventually won and advanced to the Class AA tournament.

That stands out, D’Agostino said, because the Hawks also started slow that season, but by the end, they were “where we want to be, playing our best basketball in March.”

Through Bozeman’s nonconference schedule, D’Agostino was averaging four points and 2.2 rebounds per game. She paced the Hawks with seven points against Helena Capital on Dec. 21. But her impact goes beyond those statistics.

Mobley noted D’Agostino brings energy and quickness defensively. With her athleticism and strength, she can guard opponents of any position. That versatility is key, the coach added, because that provides flexibility with substitutions.

Avery Burkhart, a junior who leads the Hawks in scoring, said the team depends on D’Agostino.

“Nicole’s going to be a constant for us all season,” Burkhart said. “That’s going to be really beneficial for our team if she can do that, and I know she can.”

With so many players graduating from last season’s team, which advanced to the state tournament, D’Agostino embraced her leadership responsibilities. But some of the younger players have stepped up as well, she added.

“I don’t feel like it’s tough because we’ve got girls who are excited to play,” D’Agostino said, “and they’re looking up to us and see the energy and the tone that we’re setting and they’re stepping up to that. They’re seeing what we’re doing and stepping up, so they’re doing great.”

Mobley called D’Agostino a “great kid” who also thrives as a student and has “high character.” Mobley also lauded her work ethic.

“She definitely pushes me, and she pushes the whole team,” Bozeman junior Clara Fox said. “She’s kind of like a tempo setter, and she’s really aggressive and a really good leader.”

Fox said D’Agostino is aggressive, adding that she’s competitive and possesses an evident passion for the game. Fox also called D’Agostino “a really good teammate.”

D’Agostino was encouraged by the Hawks’ improvement early on. She hopes wins will be a result of it.

“We’re not exactly where we want to be, but we’re getting better, and that’s the important part,” D’Agostino said. “I just think if we keep doing that and working hard and trusting each other and trusting ourselves, then we’ll be set.”

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