Winter Sports Report: MUHS girls’ basketball
MIDDLEBURY — A young Middlebury Union girls’ basketball team took its lumps this past winter, but Coach Jen Heath is hoping for at least a modest step forward this season as the Tigers begin to mature.
Certainly, Heath was able to list some positives about this year’s edition.
“Their work, enthusiasm and speed, those are things that come to mind right away. We do have a lot of speed, so we’re hoping to use that speed to help us out,” Heath said. “We’ll try to press full-court, and we’ll try to do a couple different things to be unpredictable.”
Make no mistake about it, the Tigers will still be young. Two seniors return: Captain Phoebe Smith started at forward a year ago, while Riley O’Neil saw minutes at guard. Newcomer Anna Wagner, a junior forward, is the only other upperclassman on a roster filled out with six sophomores and two freshmen.
Heath will look to Smith, a three-year veteran, for leadership.
“She’s going to be a great leader for us. It’s going to help to have a leader on the court,” Heath said.
Heath fairly notes that five of the six sophomores — guards Ivy Doran, Annie Andrus, Fairley Olson and Viviana Hammond and forward/guard Hannah Turner — gained significant experience a year ago.
“A lot of sophomores, if they are on varsity, are taking time to adjust to the varsity game, and the speed. Whereas, our sophomores, we took that time last year and adjusted to the speed of the game. They’re ready,” she said.
The team’s other sophomore is guard Lily Russell, and two freshmen also made the team, guard Cady Pitner and forward/guard Elle Sellers.
Heath was still working on her lineup combinations in the preseason — she was happy her opener was not scheduled until Dec. 18, giving her and assistant Laura Emilo more time to sort things out and install offensive and defensive sets.
“That way we have more practice time to figure out,” Heath said. “I think that will be helpful for us.”
With such a young team, improvement is the No. 1 goal, according to Heath.
“We’re looking to get better from the beginning of the seasons to the end of the season. And we are young, so we will see growth over time, so that’s going to help us,” she said.
But Heath said the Tigers could sneak up on opponents, too.
“They have a great work ethic, great attitudes and enthusiasm,” she said. “I feel like when you have a team that’s like that, with a lot of speed and athletic ability, we’re hoping to surprise some teams and be in a lot of games.”
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