Preseason Glance: Girls aim to put Trojan hoops back on map
The boom-booming of basketballs and sound of rubber soles squeaking on hardwood could mean only one thing Tuesday.
Ready or not ... the winter sports season is here.
Twenty-three members of the Trojan girls’ basketball team were running through drills in their second practice of the season Tuesday inside Fairfield High School, with second-year head coach Mick Flattery and assistants Jerrod Belzer and Brian Witzenburg leading instruction. All girls’ squads in the state were able to begin practice Monday, though boys’ teams can’t begin until next Monday.
Many of the girls are coming straight from the volleyball season, which ended for Fairfield just one week ago. Tuesday, the netters seemed to be settling into their new environment quickly.
“Just go, go, go. I feel like that’s what we always do so it’s not that much different,” said junior McKenna Ledger.
“I’m kind of used to it though because this is how it has been over the last few years,” added Marisa Repp, another junior volleyball player.
Success has been no stranger to Ledger, Repp and the several other multiple-sport athletes who make up the team’s roster. The school’s softball team nearly won a conference title with their clutch play, and Trojan volleyball continued its reign over the Southeast Conference this fall only to finish one match shy of the state tournament.
Success has been a little more elusive for the group of girls come basketball season, and the Trojans haven’t had a winning season in more than half a decade. Nonetheless, several of the varsity players — fresh off their run deep into the volleyball postseason — are confident they can change that.
“We want to just keep the tradition going like we started in the fall. We want to keep it going throughout all the sports,” said junior guard Sydney Burnett, who also is a starter on the volleyball and softball teams. “Everyone comes to watch us play volleyball but not enough in basketball.”
“No one believes in our basketball program, and we need to change that,” Ledger chimed in.
The Trojans must replace their No. 1 scoring option in Serena Ward as well as other graduates Tori Ogden and Taylor Neil. All three were major contributors to last season’s squad, yet optimism abounds in the program, from its players all the way up to the coaches.
“When we played together in the summer it was so much fun, and I just think it’s going to be an awesome season,” said Repp. “We’re a little rusty but we’re getting there.”
The Trojans do return starting point guard Sidney Baumann, who averaged 9.2 points per game as a junior last season, as well as senior post players Brittany Kurtz and Miranda Metcalf. Kurtz and Metcalf combined for 87 points in 2011-12, but they should both see more looks in the paint as seniors.
Flattery expects all three seniors to make an immediate impact along with a group of six juniors, including Hanna Greiner and Ledger in the frontcourt as well as Repp, Burnett, Seaira Drish and Erica Winslow in the backcourt. Greiner led the Trojans in blocks (17) and was second in rebounds (91) as a sophomore, and Repp finished last season on a tear. The rest of the group will be relatively new after biding their time at the junior varsity level as sophomores.
“It’s the same nucleus we had all summer, so they’re picking up very quickly with things, and I just really like the group of girls we have here,” Flattery said. “It’s not foreign language to them. They know what’s expected, they know what to run, but we just need to get them into shape and playing with that chemistry they had.”
The head coach added his expectation is for all nine girls to receive playing time — a necessity with the Trojans’ uptempo style.
“We’ll have a nine-gal rotation. The girls like our pressing style, and they know that it takes multiple girls to be able to do that and to do it well. They’ll dictate who gets the minutes,” Flattery said.
The most promising moment of Fairfield’s second practice of the season came at the very end. In a shooting drill called “The Zone Cracker,” the Trojan varsity backcourt made seven shots in a row to the delight of their peers.
“Last year we never made over four,” said Flattery. “They’re really good girls and they’re working really hard, and you’d like to think a lot of good things could happen to these kids this year.”
Fairfield has its first scrimmage of the season Saturday in Burlington before heading to the Pekin Jamboree in Packwood next Tuesday. The team’s first regular season game is Nov. 20 at Ottumwa.