Sparks has five players returning on its 12-person roster. Most of the squad is comprised of seniors.
“They’ve wanted get in the gym,” Sparks coach Tony Shaw said. “They’ve wanted to play. They’re really accepting to what we’re doing. I vowed I wouldn’t yell this year. They want to do it on their own. I’m really happy with the progress.”
The third-year coach said he will be taking a back seat this season, and allowing the girls to have a bit more freedom, while preaching “togetherness” as a team.
“I didn’t have to do a whole lot,” Shaw said. “I didn’t have to go and get girls to come in. The girls came in … I’ll sit back and ride whatever they want to do, and give them a little direction. That’s a big thing with us. We’ll compete. I don’t care who it is.”
Much of the team is new to the varsity this season. So there will be a bit of a learning curve for the inexperienced club.
“The younger kids, they’re not used to playing at a high level,” Shaw said. “We’re just bringing them along.”
Sparks fans won’t see much of a change in the Railroaders' style of play this season, keeping consistent with the system they have used in the past.
“We really need an emphasis on offense and free throws,” Shaw said. “We missed so many layups, and three-footers. We kind of are concentrating on stuff like that to help us out.”
Shaw said his team was sound on defense for the most part last season but struggled on offense.
“(On offense) we just might do some things, maybe. We have a little bit of quickness and that can try and free us up,” Shaw said. “We have some shooters that can shoot. I think they’ve been really receptive to that.”
Sparks will have a tough road ahead of it, trying to stave off another disappointing season.
“We won one game last year. No one expects us to do anything, and that’s rightly so,” Shaw said. “All we can do is just play hard and see what happens.”
Sparks had 50 girls come out for tryouts for the new season.
“We had a great turnout,” Shaw said. “We’ve actually gone up in numbers, the last few years as far as tryouts are concerned. We’re pleased with what we’re doing. We just need to win a few games.”
The Railroaders goal this season is to play hard and as a team, Shaw explained.
“We’d like to win more than one game,” he said. “We’d like to make a push to try to be a playoff team, to get to the first round, but just get better. I think we’ll get better as the year goes on, like we did last year … If we’re in a game, I think we’ll have a shot.”
Sparks scrimmaged North Tahoe and Wooster over the weekend, which gave some of its inexperienced players a glimpse of playing at the varsity level.
“I thought we did well on the glass,” Shaw said. “I thought we shot the ball.”
The Railroaders kick off their season at home tonight at 7 p.m., hosting Damonte Ranch. Sparks will travel to Carson Tuesday, followed by another game against Damonte the following Thursday.
Sparks starts league play Jan. 6 at Yerington. The Railroaders will play only five preseason games between tonight’s opener and January 6th.
“We’ll have three weeks to work on stuff and get stronger,” Shaw said.