Veteran team shoots for winning record, playoffs | FALCON SPORTS PREVIEW

Falcon sophomore Abby Hodson pressures sophomore Anne Madsen during a recent practice. Ball handling will be critical to the Falcons’ success or failure this season.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon sophomore Abby Hodson pressures sophomore Anne Madsen during a recent practice. Ball handling will be critical to the Falcons’ success or failure this season.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

One more victory last year, and the Falcons would need a different goal.

Alas, the 2011-12 girls basketball team finished 7-7 in the Cascade Conference (8-12 overall), and this year’s squad wants to win.

“To represent South Whidbey, it would be nice to be at least over .500,” said senior co-captain Hayley Newman.

The road to a winning record shortened when post Annalies Schuster returned to the program. South Whidbey’s senior co-captain joined the team this season after sitting on the sidelines last year to focus on her college courses through Running Start. She’s back and ready to make an impact both on her team and in the league.

“I also have fun playing with my friends,” Schuster said. “These are girls I’ve played with since seventh grade. Seeing them last year playing without me, I was missing out on all the fun, the bus rides and the camaraderie.”

As a sophomore — the last year she played organized team basketball for South Whidbey — Schuster was a reserve post player. When she was in, Schuster was a reliable rebounder with decent putback skills. She’s improved her jump shot and defending, she hoped.

“I hope to be one of the best defensive players,” Schuster said. “I want to be a constant, someone they can count on.”

The rest of the Falcons’ scoring is likely to come from Newman and the team’s third co-captain, Ellie Greene. Among the three seniors, South Whidbey has its offensive positions handled: Newman, an outside shooter; Schuster, an interior presence; and Greene a cutting guard.

At times, the Falcons’ shot selection was spotty last year. They could pass too much or take contested shots, averaging only 36 points per game. Those are problems of the past, the 2012 Falcons hope.

“We’re more equal this year and we’ve played with each other the last couple years,” Greene said. “I can know what Ellie does when she cuts and she can read me.”

Turnovers also cut the Falcons’ offense short. With able guards like Greene, Newman and junior Madi Boyd, South Whidbey could see better offensive looks this year.

“We have to value the basketball more,” Newman said. “The past couple of years we probably averaged 30 turnovers or more a game.”

Quality possessions and more offense will be required to unseat Archbishop Murphy from the top of the conference. Though a league title would be nice, the Falcons have their eyes set on a playoff spot. And that requires being one of the top two 1A teams from the conference. King’s finished in second place last season, and the other conference 1A school and South Whidbey’s rival, Coupeville, finished last with only one conference victory.

Facing their rivals was a season highlight for Schuster. A friend of hers graduated from Coupeville last year and bragging rights are at stake.

“If we win I’m going to smear it in her face,” Schuster said.

Keeping ahead of Sultan and trying to topple Cedarcrest from the top of the preseason standings was at the top of Newman’s to-do list. So was defeating Lakewood, King’s, Archbishop Murphy and Granite Falls. Admittedly, it’s a long list.

“I’d like to beat everyone,” Newman said.

If Newman can score in bunches like last year, or if that opens looks for her teammates, South Whidbey’s odds of success improve.

“My role is to take open shots,” she said.

South Whidbey’s sisterhood of hoops has a bit of a literal meaning for Schuster. Her sister Kristen is a sophomore on the varsity squad. The last time they played on a team together was four years ago on a South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District team. It’s not all love. When they practice on the court, elbows are thrown and hips tossed.

“I’m hugging Kristen when I’m defending her,” Annalies Schuster said. “She works hard and isn’t afraid to give me a few punches either. I love it.”

This will be head coach Andy Davis’ third season at the helm of the girls team. Newman noted that he has a program-wide system in place now, with the junior varsity team practicing the same plays as varsity, and for good reason. Davis started the season with nine players suited for varsity and planned to “float” a few girls between JV and varsity.

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