Girls basketball team must reload again
The Parkland girls program is used to losing key players to graduation. They have consistently lost two or three of their leading scorers and have bounced back.
Last season, the Lady Trojans replaced four of their five starters because of graduation and still finished 20-8 on the season. For his next trick, coach Wes Spence will look to replace all five starters from last year's team and still keep his team competitive. Odds are that the trick will work wonderfully.
"The way our turnover is working, each year, we've graduated at least three starters," said Spence. "Every year, seniors have been our leading scorers and we've graduated our three leading scorers. It's something that we've consistently done."
This year's team has three seniors - Olivia Brown, Brynne Brouse and Kristen McCarty - who will help to provide leadership for the team on and off the court. Twin juniors Erica and Erin Bross also figure to be regular contributors, but Spence believes that his team truly will take a team approach to the season when it comes to playing time and finding someone to step up.
"We're going to play a ton of kids this year," he said. "We've always prided ourselves on being able to play nine or ten kids deep and be a very balanced team, and whoever happens to be the hot hand that night, it works out for us.
"We're not going in saying 'I'm glad we have one kid or another.' We're expecting everybody to play a major role for us."
Spence believes that one reason the program can reload so quickly is the fact that there are good programs and coaches below the varsity level that get girls ready to step in with the varsity team. The youth programs start as early as third grade and stress learning the fundamentals early.
"We're very fortunate," said Spence. "In our program, we have great coaching at the middle school, the freshman and the JV level. They take what we do at the varsity level and then start to implement pieces of that at the lower levels.
"We're also very fortunate in the Parkland community to have fantastic youth programs and feeder programs and they teach the kids good fundamentals, so it makes our job much easier when they get to this level."
Spence also says it's the girls themselves that help to make his job easier because of their work ethic and approach to the game.
"Our girls do a good job of working hard," said Spence. "We try to play together a lot during the summer, so that girls get a chance to step into those roles before December comes around."
Even with all of the work over the summer and official practices, which have been going on for three weeks now, there's no way of telling just how prepared the team is or how the players will respond when the season tips off Saturday at Bethlehem Catholic.
"The preseason stuff has been great," said Spence. "The girls come in and work hard and they're energized and really seem to get along together as a group, which I think is a big part of it.
"If you have kids who work hard and get along and enjoy playing together, I think that can take you a long way."
The Lady Trojans made it to the semifinals of the District 11 Class AAAA tournament last season before losing 49-41 to eventual champion Nazareth. The team won't have to wait long to look for revenge over the Blue Eagles, since the two teams match up December 13 in the second game of the season.
"We have a pretty daunting opening to the season," said Spence. "We play Beca and Nazareth, who are the two defending district champions in our first two games.
"We play Northampton in our third game and they're going to be better than they were last year and then we go down to Florida to play in a tournament where we're going to see some very good competition. Our first six games are going to be quite a challenge for us, and we'll really get to see where we stand."