With the loss of six seniors, including two all-leaguers, last year’s freshmen are going to be looked upon to step up.
“It definitely shows in practice that they have that year under their belt,” SSHS girls basketball coach Christine Eckles said. “Even though they’re only going to be sophomores, the expectations for what they can do for us will be high.”
Obviously the big loss from last year’s squad is four-year starter Ari James, who for the second straight season, was a first-team selection after leading the Cougars in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals. She averaged 10.1 points and 8.31 rebounds per game. Her 216 rebounds were a single-season record at the school.
Stepping up for the Cougars will be sophomore guard Lyndsey Anderson, the only non-senior to earn all-league honors a year ago. She averaged eight points and eight rebounds per game in the second half of last season.
“Lyndsey’s constant work ethic in practice, she’s not a real vocal leader, but her effort and the way she practices and plays makes her a leader,” Eckles said.
Seniors Amanda O’Farrell and Julianna Waller are key returners along with sophomores Sam Owens, Riley Holladay and Anderson.
Still, the Cougars are fairly young this season.
“We look young. We only have four upperclassmen and Morgan Prince is already out for the season with a bad shoulder,” Eckles said. “I like our athleticism, and our work ethic has been good in practice so far. It’s young, but it’s a talented and skilled group.”
Eckles said the key for the team’s success is to be consistent game in and game out, which was a problem a year ago when it finished with a 14-12 overall record and a 5-7 mark in league play.
The starting five is shaping up to be O’Farrell, Anderson, Owens and Holladay with Waller and Morgan Allen likely battling it out for the fifth spot.
Heading into the season, it looks like team quickness and depth will be a couple strengths. Eckles also believes shooting accuracy might be improved from a year ago.
However, inexperience and youth could pose problems. Eckles expects to see some young mistakes that hopefully will decline over the course of the season.
Now in its 10th year, the Spanish Springs girls basketball program has reached the postseason three times in 2004, 2008 and 2009.
“I would like to see us be a consistent playoff team,” Eckles said. “We had made it a couple years and then missed it last year. I definitely would like to get back to that and continue to build with this young group of kids. Hopefully make that something that happens every year.”
Spanish Springs opens the Northern 4A league season at Wooster Tuesday. Tip-off is 5:15 p.m.