Girls' basketball coaches hope to build on last year's progress

By Julia Green
Following are basketball previews for area girls’ teams.

Andes Mountaineers
After graduating only one senior from the 2008-09 team that went 4-14 overall, the Andes Mountaineers are optimistic about the strengths of their returning core players. As Co-Head Coach Jeff Rhone put it, this year is “a luxury” for the Mountaineers.
“We’ve never had this many girls,” Rhone said. “We have only like three girls in grades 9 through 12 who aren’t playing basketball this year, which is, like, 95 percent participation, which is great.”
Those numbers translate to something the Mountaineers have struggled to generate in past seasons: competitive practices.
“We have a lot of people on the floor, so in practices we do get an opportunity to scrimmage more than we ever have, so we’re excited about that,” Rhone said. “That’s a luxury here, so we’re trying to do things that allow them to put themselves in more game-like situations in practice.”
The Mountaineers return a number of key players from last year’s roster, including five seniors: Rachel Andrews, Kaitlin Mackay, Meghan Peck, Karli Tait and Jenna Weaver.
“They’ll all play a lot this year,” Rhone said. “They’re all certainly a big part of the team and will be involved often. Karli we can use everywhere – she can play the guard or the post or wherever – and Rachel is usually our center, and the rest of them usually play the guard position.”
Also on the roster are juniors Gina Tait and Tyler Fairbairn, 10th-grader Ashley Terry and 8th-grader Mariah Ruff.
“We’re handling the ball a lot better, possessing the ball better than we have in the past and I think we’re scoring some more points and we have pretty balance scoring,” Rhone said of his team, which had noticeably fewer turnovers in its first game of the season last week than it averaged last season.
He added that the team has already set some goals and identified some benchmarks they’d like to accomplish this season.
“Our first goal is to be .500 by the Christmas vacation,” he said. “If we can do that, we feel like we’re starting on the right foot. We’d love to think we could be above .500, but we’ll see what happens.”
Rhone is co-coaching varsity and JV with Glenn Reynolds, who served as the assistant coach last year.

Margaretville Blue Devils
After a 2008-2009 season in which the Blue Devils made their first trip to the postseason since 2003 and posted an 11-8 record, Head Coach Kyle Holden said his squad is young this year, and will be looking to the remaining two seniors to set the tone.
“Our co-captains, Erica Faulkner and Michelle O’Reilly, they’re going to have to take on a great deal of leadership because we are so young this year,” he said. “Both are very strong rebounders, Michelle is a real threat from the outside with her jump shot and Erica’s our all-over player – we can play her inside and out, she’s just a really good ball handler.”
Despite losing their season opener to Downsville, 35-29, last week and dropping a tough 49-36 decision to Roscoe on Monday, Holden said he is optimistic about his team’s potential.
“I love the athleticism and determination of this group,” he said. “This is a group that can really get into the open floor and push the ball up the court. We can be really pesky on defense and on any given night I have more than two or three girls that can score, so that’s a nice change from the past, when we’ve always had to rely on one or two players.”
Rounding out the Blue Devils’ roster are juniors Karla Nava and Olivia Todd and sophomores Amy Filupeit, Erin Filupeit, Danielle Hull and Genesis Quinones.
Holden said his main goal is just for his squad to improve each day.
“I’m not putting a wins total expectation on us,” he said. “I just want them to play and be competitive and to have fun while they do it. So far, even though we’ve lost the first two, there have been major improvements.”

Roxbury Rockets
In his second season at the helm of the Roxbury Rockets, Head Coach Tom Sherwood said he is looking to pick up on the momentum with which his team ended the 2008-2009 season.
“I think the girls last year really came on the second half of the season,” he said. “That’s when we won our four games and had a chance to win a couple other games, so I guess it took them awhile to learn the system but by the end of the season I thought we were a very competitive team.”
The Rockets lost four of its eight total players from last year to graduation, all of them starters, which Sherwood said puts his team in much the same place as they began last year.
He added that he will be looking for his three key returners, Jenna Johnston, Rachel Meckes and Raven Sprague, to set the pace.
“They all got a lot of playing time last year,” he said. “They were instrumental in the second half of the season with the team playing better, being very competitive, so coming into the season, even though two of the three didn’t start last year, they got quite a bit of playing time, so really those three should be the team leaders.”
Despite dropping a close 36-31 decision to Franklin Friday night, Sherwood said his team was competitive and added that he is optimistic about his team’s chances. Rebounding will be key for the Rockets this season.
“I think the girls are enthusiastic, they’re working hard in practice, each one’s working hard to improve their game and working hard to come together as a team, and hopefully again in the second half of the season. Maybe we can put something together and make a run.”