Girls basketball preview: New coach has smaller, faster rosterFrom the coaching staff, to the roster to the style of play, this year’s Farmington girls basketball team will look a lot different than last year’s squad that went 23-4 and came up a game short of its first-ever state tournament.
By: Matt Steichen, The Farmington Independent
From the coaching staff, to the roster to the style of play, this year’s Farmington girls basketball team will look a lot different than last year’s squad that went 23-4 and came up a game short of its first-ever state tournament.
Coach Jason Berg resigned not long after the Tigers’ emotional section finals loss to Rochester Mayo in March. That game was also the end of the line for five seniors — four of whom were six-footers — that combined to score more than 29 points and grab 23 rebounds per game over the course of the season.
Sondra Chadwick takes over as head coach this season, and she will be working with many of the same players she has coached over the last five years in the Farmington youth programs. A young Tiger roster will feature just six returning varsity players, and only three players — Taylor Meyer, Isis Alexander and Mariah Mincke — who got consistent minutes last season.
“In many ways this is like a brand new team, including a brand new coaching staff. The strengths of this team are very different than last year’s. We are physically smaller, but we are much quicker and my plan is to use that speed to our advantage,” Chadwick said. “With the leadership of our captains, Isis Alexander and Taylor Meyer, I am looking for the older girls to mentor our younger athletes and I hope to hit our stride by the time we get into conference play.”
Meyer, a University of Minnesota-Duluth basketball recruit, missed the entire fall soccer season after suffering a knee injury while playing summer basketball in August. The Tigers will start the season learning to play without Meyer, but hoping their leading scorer (14.5) and rebounder (8.0) will be ready to rejoin them on the court sometime in January.
Until Meyer returns, on-court leadership will fall squarely on the shoulders of Alexander. The senior guard provides an offensive threat (4.7 points per game last season) and can also drive the lane and create opportunities for her teammates.
“Isis is a great leader and has a deep understanding of the game. She is very smart on the court and is a playmaker,” Chadwick said. “I am looking for Isis to provide more scoring for us this season.”
Senior Gabby White and freshmen Sofia Chadwick and Abby Gallus will also see time at the guard spots. Coach Chadwick expects her guards to push the ball up the court and help create turnovers when the team goes into its full-court pressure defense.
“The biggest strength of this team is their speed and ability to score in transition. We have a solid group of guards that I expect will set the tone for this faster style of play,” she said. “I prefer a style that is more up-tempo, combining a variety of presses and scoring in transition.”
Mincke, a 6-footer who can also step back and shoot from beyond the arc, will be the Tigers’ most experienced option at forward until Meyer returns. She will be joined by senior Desi Loftus, who got into 11 varsity games last season, as well as sophomore Aly Grebner, senior Dava White and senior Allison Rice.
“Until Taylor returns and since we are smaller, we need to get stronger and make more of an effort on our rebounding, not allowing our opponents second chances to the basket,” Chadwick said.
The first-year coach expects the success of her team to come down to how prepared the young players are by the time Meyer returns to the lineup.
“Since a number of the girls this season do not have previous varsity experience, I need to accelerate their development and build their confidence by the time Taylor rejoins the team,” she said. “My goal is to put these pieces together by the time we enter conference play. I expect that we will be strong contenders for the conference and section titles.”