by Roger Wistar
The girls varsity basketball team has returned largely the same roster as last season, with a group of players that are eager to attack this season's schedule.
"I have been so impressed and grateful with the energy kids have put out this year in just the little time we've had," said head coach Doug Kneeland.
The team earned a promising 56-27 win over King in its season opener before dropping two tough games in the following week. Now the Bearcats (1-2) prepare for the Ethel Walker Holiday Tournament, which features a pair of games on Dec. 15-16.
Last season the team struggled down the stretch, ending the season on a losing streak. With 10 girls back from that team, Kneeland said that the experience has created passion and a sense of urgency in this year's squad.
"What they learned is that they never want to feel like they did last year," he said.
One reason for optimism is the improvement that Kneeland has noticed the returners made over the summer. Combined with an injection of talent from some of the newcomers, the coaches have seen a team thus far that is more experienced and focused, he said.
The backcourt should be an area of increased depth for the Bearcats, with multiple players who will be called upon to handle the ball. Several girls have worked on improving their skills in this area to give the team more flexibility in constructing lineups, said Kneeland.
When clicking, the team will look to play an up-tempo style, generating offense from defense and trying to keep the ball moving. Rather than relying on individual players to generate scoring opportunities, the Bearcats will look to create options through movement and using open space, he said.
The defense will depend on players applying pressure, forcing the ball outside and trying to generate turnovers that can lead to easy baskets. As with the offense, Kneeland said that defense will require a team effort, with all the girls on the floor helping as much as possible.
Most importantly, the team will look to play for each other. "It's easy in the depths of January and February to forget that amongst all the other things that we do," said Kneeland, "but if we remember that goal, we will have a successful, fun season."