Area girls basketball teams opened their more than three-month long journey Monday as teams throughout the state held their first official practices for the 2012-13 season.
Below is a look at how five area schools spent their first day of practice.
Fourth-year coach Hollis Vickery was so enthusiastic about the first day of practice he got caught up in the freshman practice that preceded his varsity/sophomore session.
“I meant to only stay at the freshman practice for 10 minutes and I was over there for a half hour,” Vickery said. “I’m very excited. They know I’m excited and they’re excited, too. We’re ready to go.”
The Lady Cavaliers opened practice without four key players who are still playing volleyball in Brianna Argubright, Mia Porter, Ellie Senica and Brittany Zawacki.
Vickery said the foursome’s absence will allow other players to get extra work.
“There’s kids who need the work,” Vickery said. “We had open gyms and some conditioning, but with a lot of girls in tennis, soccer and still in volleyball, they have to get their legs.”
Vickery said he may make some changes to the defense but said he won’t know exactly what he’s going to do until he gets his full roster.
He has high hopes for the season.
“If we hit stride midseason or beyond, that’s what we are trying to do,” Vickery said. “We’re trying to win right away too, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a process. We have a lot of people who need to mesh. There’s a lot of things going on. We’ll take it day by day, but we’re very optimistic that as soon as we hit our stride we’ll be very formidable.”
— Kevin Chlum
Lady Bruins coach Tom McGunnigal isn’t shy about hiding his excitement for the new season.
Despite losing four starters and having a only handful of returning seniors, the St. Bede coach is greatly looking forward to the season.
That, however, has been an obstacle as McGunnigal has had to make sure he slows down the pace and not do too much and implement things too soon.
“I have to slow myself down and say, ‘It’s OK to take your time. It’s OK to walk through it here,’” McGunnigal said. “We are going twice (Tuesday) and twice Thursday so we have the time to go through it, and for that reason I want to take time to make sure we’re fundamentally solid come Saturday so that we can be moving into some bigger and faster things when the boys come in and the practice time gets shorter.”
In all, St. Bede will have eight practices in the first week, which started with the 2½-hour season-opening practice on Monday.
McGunnigal spent the first day focusing on fundamentals and most importantly conditioning, which he tried to incorporate into his all of his drills.
“It was exciting,” SBA senior Whitley Funfsinn said. “It’s like a new team so I’m really excited to see how we develop together. It’s great just getting back on the court.”
— Jared Bell
It’s been nine years since Hall superintendent Mike Struna last coached girls basketball at Mt. Pulaski High School, but the veteran coach said it didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things with Monday’s opening practice in his new gig coaching the Lady Red Devils.
“It’s a lot of the same stuff, a lot of drills I ran before,” said Struna, who took over the Hall program after a late summer coaching resignation left the team in flux.
Struna had 12 varsity and 12 fresh-soph recruits attending the opening day of practice and said that e was going to take things slow with his new troops as they learned his practice system.
“It’s a lot of new drills for the girls, all new drills they’re learning. So we’re going to do the same drills for days three days in a row. Kind of a Johnny Wooden idea: work on offense certain days and do the same drills until you do them well.”
“It went pretty well,” said Struna. “The girls are hard workers. I’m a little worried about starting right from go because they had summer league with coach Swanson, who was going to take the team. We’re kind of starting off from scratch not having that summer league experience,but they’re a pretty smart group so they’ll get throught it.”
The Lady Red Devils will tip off their season at the Oregon Tournament, where they will open with Fulton on Nov. 15.
— Chris Yucus
The Lady Panthers are going to showcase quite a few new changes this season as first-year coach James Barnett implements a new philosophy.
It all starts with Monday’s first practice of the year.
“Our expectations for the first practice were to get the girls on floor, get them introduced to the drills, get them introduced to our philosophy on the season more than anything,” Barnett said.
“Hard work — just hard work, defense and pushing the ball. I believe in passing the ball as opposed to dribbling to score. I guess I have an old-school thought on that. I’m not a fan of the dribble-drive or the motion. I look to get most of our points off of assists.”
Barnett added the girls are going to have to focus intensely in practice because they’re learning a tough style of play that involves the Lady Panthers becoming the true definition of the word team.
Not only will practice be tough mentally, but of course the physical aspect will be there as well.
“Their (practices) are going to be hard,” Barnett said. “I think they all left (Monday) feeling it. Their going to feel it tonight, tomorrow and the first three are always the worst. It’s always the third one that you hate the most.”
— Brandon LaChance
Mike Cooper, entering his 20th season at the helm of the Ottawa Lady Pirates (347-158), welcomes 13 varsity members to the 2012-2013 version with letter winners back from last year’s 21-7 regional championship team.
“We’re not going to be as big as we’ve been in the past like with Allie Miceli and Kelsie Rombach,” Lady Pirates coach Mike Cooper said. “We are going to be very athletic, but as far as first days go we are just doing some conditioning right now and getting ready for Streator Nov. 12 in Pontiac.”
Among those leading the way this year are Lindsey Greene, Jaleesa Kindred and Jayna Crab, to name a few of the returning members.
“Lindsey Greene and Jayna Crab very athletic players and really can get after people on defense,” Cooper said. “Kindred averaged seven or eight points a game and we’ll look for more this year from her. I see a lot of quickness this summer and today as well and that will also be a key for this team.”
The 11 juniors and senior along with two sophomores will get things started at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament which get started next Monday against NIB 12 West rival Streator.
— Brad Martin Sr.
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