Experienced Raiders anticipate bounce-back seasonOctober 23, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
Last season was a tough one for the Southridge Raiders. They lost key senior Tori Tretter early to injury, and the rest of the team had to grow up fast on the court. They took their lumps through a long season, and ended with a 4-18 record (1-7 in conference) and a first round exit in the sectional to Vincennes Lincoln.
But despite the final record, Raider head coach Steve Rust believes Southridge took away a few good things from last year which the team can use to build for this coming season.
A lot of players gained a lot of playing time and experience on the court that they probably would not have had under normal circumstances. Rust says the situation did bear some fruit on the court, as the team got better at running the offense and defensive schemes toward the end of the season.
But the major takeaway was the growth and “toughening” of the team — they had to toughen up because of the circumstance, and Rust sees the girls as battle-tested coming into this year.
“We had a lot of young players get thrown in the fire very quickly,” he said. “There was a lot of pressure for our young guards. They took their lumps. But with a year under our belt, they’re stronger. I’m hoping that will be key for us.”
The lessons they learned were often hard ones, but sophomore guard Kennedy Nalley shared the one that the whole team feelsthe most going into their opening game against Perry Central on Oct. 30, a thought that has led to a shift in the team’s attitude at this early juncture.
“Losing sucks, and we did that a lot last year,” she said. “Last year we didn’t have much positive energy, we were just trying to get through the season. This year we’re starting to pick up the enthusiasm throughout practice, getting a lot more done, and having a better attitude. It’s paying off.”
Southridge comes into the season having only lost three seniors, and Rust is looking for everyone to step up for positive on-court contributions across the board. Senior guard Mady Neukam will look to pick up where she left off last year, where she carried most of the scoring load for the team. Nalley and senior guard Macie Marley will share duties of ball handling and initiating offense. Marley will also be a key defender and knockdown shooter for the Raiders. Nalley will also have some time off the ball, where she’ll look to attack the basket.
Junior forward Grace Sickbert will be a key presence in the post for the Raiders. Rust described her as a “warrior” defensively who will fight opposing front court players for boards while also sharpening up her offensive skills in the paint.
Freshman Myah Montgomery, the younger sister of Raider multisport athlete Colson Montgomery, has a combination of size and skill on both sides of the ball that Rust finds intriguing, but he’ll watch how she progresses to see where her best fit is on the court. Junior Anna Kappner is another shooter for the team, and sophomores Monica Steckler and Rose Tempel will both see significant time on the court.
In terms of play style, the Raiders will look once more to using their speed and shooting to play fast and run the floor. They will look to make buckets happen quickly in transition and let off shots with urgency in the halfcourt sets to give themselves as many possessions (and shot opportunities) as possible.
But the team will also be looking to add another wrinkle into their playbook. Rust wants to integrate a post-game into Southridge’s offense, and he thinks that he has some players with the size to do so on the team this year.
“We’re making a concentrated effort to get the ball into the post this year — there has to be,” said Rust. “We’re a little bigger this year. We want the offense to start getting touches inside. There will be a concentrated effort to get touches for our post players.”
Defensively, the team will look to implement a combination of man-to-man and zone schemes, which will depend on the matchups over the course of a game. But the team’s biggest factor defensively will be their rebounding. Southridge wants to crash the glass when shots go up in an effort to not only limit opponent’s possessions, but also use those rebounds as triggers for fastbreaks and easy points on the other end of the court in mismatch scenarios.
The road won’t be easy. Rust says that Southridge’s schedule is loaded in terms of teams and individual talent. But, he believes in the hard work his girls have been putting in during their offseason, and thinks that their trials last season will only serve them well moving forward into this year.
“There’s a lot of potential for this team,” said Rust. “I really like this team. This team gets along well, which is a key ingredient in being successful. We have to come in, wipe the slate clean and have the ‘Want-to’ mentality.”
With the new season upon them the team is already doing just that, as the girls have their goals set high this year’s on court campaign.
“I think we’ll surprise some people this year,” said Neukam. “I’d love a conference championship and I know we can do it. I can see a sectional, a regional, I don’t see any limits for us. We’ve got everything we need. I think it comes down to the girls believing we can.”
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