WINTER SPORTS PREVIEW: Intensity, speed keys for young girls squad

With her mind already intense and ready for the coming season, senior basketball captain Julie Robinson puts up tough defense in an intersquad scrimmage Monday. - Matt Johnson
With her mind already intense and ready for the coming season, senior basketball captain Julie Robinson puts up tough defense in an intersquad scrimmage Monday.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

Call it a fresh start.

With a new head coach and back on the court without five varsity graduates from the 2001-02 season, the South Whidbey High School girls basketball team has a new plan this year. After largely living or dying by the scoring performances of graduate Hilary Wick during last year's 9-13 season, the Falcons are back on the court with a young team and only the expectations they put upon themselves.

Two weeks into preseason workouts and play, the signs for the season are good. On Saturday, the Falcons played hard-nosed basketball in a preseason jamboree, losing by one point to 4A Shorecrest in a 10-minute scrimmage and beating perennial power Kings by two at the buzzer on Julie Robinson's three-pointer.

This week, they were back in the gym, playing intersquad, full-court games to get used to pressure shooting, defense and fatigue. Directed by first-year head coach Howard Collier, they were astute on defense and quick when running the court. Collier, a cross country and track coach at Roosevelt High School who was an assistant under former Falcon coach Sam Lee last year, said those qualities will carry the team to start.

"This is a running team," he said this week.

Though a bit sparse in the shooting department this week, the team's players have intensity on the court. Two veterans, 5-4 junior Bronwyn Russell and 5-7 senior Julie Robinson were picking up where they left off last season. Both were almost impossible to get around in practice, an indication of things to come.

"We'll be really aggressive," said Robinson, who is one of the team's captains this year.

They will have to be, since varsity experience is not their strong suit. Younger players on the team include 6-0 sophomore Mary McCune -- the team's tallest player -- sophomores Danielle Burton and Reanna Grim, and freshman Catie Newman. Newman, who made a name for herself during the past few years in youth basketball shooting contests, is one of Collier's picks to be a standout this year.

"She's awesome," he said.

Bringing experience to the team will be Robinson, Russell, seniors Aimee Dumke and Dannette Waterman, and junior Jordan Tobler. Tobler, who started getting regular varsity minutes late last season, said this season's team will overcome its youth with good communication. Most team members played together during the summer.

"We were really able to connect," she said.

With 35 girls out for varsity, junior varsity and C-squad teams, the Falcons are not only a well-connected bunch, but have the biggest winter sports roster at the school. That will help as the season wears on and the games get long.

Collier did not make any predictions about where his team will finish in the North Cascades Conference or district, nor did he reference his predecessor's prediction that the Falcons would make it to the state tournament this year. Noting that the NCC will be as tough this year as it has in the past, he said he is hoping the team will improve on its record last year and qualify for the district tournament.

The Falcons start their season Friday with a home game against Jackson. NCC play starts next Tuesday when Sultan comes visiting.

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