SIDNEY — The numbers may be down a little bit. But Lehman Catholic girls basketball coach Craig Hall will take quality over quantity.
Hall feels like the Cavaliers can overcome the small numbers on the roster this season.
“It is well known that the girls soccer and volleyball programs (where most of his players were in the fall) are two of the most successful programs at Lehman,” Hall said. “You don’t have to have basketball talent to be able to have success. Getting after it on defense and rebounds are all about heart and desire.”
Which is why Hall is hopeful of success this season.
The seniors include guards Rylie McIver, Lauren McFarland and Hope Anthony.
McFarland is the leading returning scorer from a year ago, when she averaged 7.9 points to go with 2.2 steals and 2.7 rebounds. McIver averaged 4.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals while Anthony averaged 2.6 points and three rebounds.
“Lauren McFarland is a good player,” Hall said. “Rylie McIver has worked really hard on her perimeter game and is improved from last year and Hope Anthony is a solid player.”
The juniors include guard Anna Cianciolo and wing Emma Kennedy, who split time last year between JV and varsity. Cianciolo averaged 5.2 points.
“Emma has been a post player,” Hall said. “But at 5-foot-8, we are going to have her on the perimeter and she has been working hard on that. Anna Cianciolo will be the point guard and she can do that.”
The sophomores will be 5-11 Heidi Toner and guard Colleen O’Leary, who spent most of last season on the JV team.
“Heidi (Toner) is our only true post,” Hall said. “She is going to have to step up and she has been working hard. Colleen (O’Leary) gives us another guard.”
Rounding out the roster are junior Maggie Bezy and freshman Tori Lachey and Caroline Wesner.
“Maggie (Bezy) will give us some depth,” Hall said. “Holy Angels didn’t have an eighth grade team last year, so I don’t think the two freshman played basketball last year.”
Hall wants to be uptempo and be aggressive on defense.
“I think we are going to have to be,” he said. “That and we need to be able to shoot well from the perimeter.”
As for the Northwest Central Conference, Hall hopes to be right in the thick of things.
“Last year, we finished second to Marion Elgin,” he said. “We lost to them in overtime on the road. So, we were right there. I would like to think we could be right there again.”
Riverside looking to gain experience
Riverside lost five seniors from last year’s 12-11 team and will be relying mostly on new players this season.
“Our youth and inexperience will lead to some growing pains, but I expect the girls to play with their best effort every night and to improve as the season goes along,” second-year coach Bryce Hodge said. “That is our goal, to simply get better every day.”
Junior Lauryn Sanford is the team’s lone returning starter from last year. Sanford, a 5-10 junior guard/forward, averaged 5.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and three assists per game last year.
“Lauryn Sanford is going to have an increased offensive role this year,” Hodge said. “She ran the point last year and distributed the ball to her teammates nicely. Graduating those five seniors and over 85 percent of our scoring from last season, she is going to have to step up in the scoring column this year.
“Lauryn is a great defender and takes great care of the basketball. I expect her offense to improve this year as well as she has put in a tremendous amount of work this offseason.”
Junior guard Allison Knight and sophomore guard Kirstin Schlumbohm are the team’s only other returning letterwinners. Hodge said Knight will have an increased offensive role this year and Schlumbohm will split time with Sanford at point guard.
“Allison is a smart basketball player who helps get her teammates in the right spot on the floor,” Hodge said. “I’m hopeful she will help replace some of our scoring from last year as well. She’s a great defender and isn’t afraid to take a charge.
“… Kirstin is typically the quickest girl on the floor no matter who we play. Her speed helps her get up and down the floor quickly and get the ball to open teammates when defenders slide off to stop her. Since she will be a starter now, she will need to focus on taking care of the basketball and taking shots when she is open.”
Key newcomers include senior guard Jordyn Marshall, sophomore forward Olivia Perk, sophomore guard Kara Kauffman, freshman guard Jade Copas and freshman forward Amber Waters.
Hodge said Perk, who is 5-11, is expected to help lead the team’s rebounding effort.
“When she’s getting offensive rebounds and scoring on put backs, it makes our team much better,” Hodge said.
Hodge said Marshall is the team’s leader.
“Her leadership and hustle are the most valuable things she brings to our team,” Hodge said of Marshall. “Kara Kauffman, Jade Copas, and Amber Waters will all contribute on varsity for us as well. …They are all learning and have done a nice job in the preseason so far, I’m excited to see how they help the team this winter.”
Hodge said Elgin is the favorite to win the NWCC and also said he expects Lehman and Ridgemont to be tough.