Better living through chemistry?
It’s far too early for semester grades from Whittell High School, but the girls basketball team already is earning high marks in chemistry.
Warriors head coach Lindsay Wines likes her squad’s grade-A team unity. And that chemistry may be Whittell’s biggest asset, since the Warriors aren’t the biggest or most experienced team in the Northern Nevada 3A.
“It’s going to be a long haul,” said Wines, starting her ninth season as Whittell’s head coach. “The fortunate thing is, I have a great group of kids. These kids get along, and I think they’re aware of the fact that, if we work hard and work together, we can accomplish something.”
Those intangibles may be very important indeed during a season that starts with few numbers going Whittell’s way. The Warriors lost three key players from last year’s 4-18 squad, in Sarah Sufka, Aurora Terry and Vanessa Brewer. Junior guard Caitlin Fagan is the lone full-time starter who returns to the Warriors this season, and an early favorite to step up as a team leader.
“We lost some key players, but there are a couple of girls who came up who can help,” said Fagan, who has played varsity all three years she’s been at Whittell. “Hopefully, they’ll continue to learn. We’re going to need to learn a lot this year.”
What that means is Whittell likely will break the game down and find more accurate ways to chart progress than strictly wins and losses.
“Each game, we’re going to have to set a team goal to get little victories for us each game because we are going to have to take success one game at a time,” Wines said.
Wines also plans on keeping the offense very simple, with three players new to the program. The starting five is far from set, but Fagan seemingly has the only sure starting spot at the point. Nichole Wasson should join her in the backcourt to start the season. The frontcourt should be some combination of 5-6 junior Alisha Roth, 5-11 senior Danielle Cronis (Whittell’s tallest player), 5-9 sophomore Ashley Berns and newcomer Courtney Benvenuto, a senior who is new to the program. But Wines plans on getting the most from a number of players who could push for minutes – and starts. Cronis, Wasson, Jahna Rico and Emily Bowman also return from last year’s team.
“I think playing time is going to be pretty even (between) eight or nine girls,” Wines said.
Wines anticipates Cronis, Berns and Benvenuto helping Whittell address its biggest concern, rebounding. Whittell needs to pound the boards to get more than one shot off.
“We know what we need to work on: We need to work on our rebounding,” Wines said.
Whether Wines’ Warriors improve on the boards will be no more evident than when Whittell visits division favorite Hawthorne on Jan. 21 and when the Serpents travel to Zephyr Cove Feb. 11. The Serpents boast talented twin towers in 6-2 senior center Ashlee Orndorff and sister, Sidney, a freshman. Dayton (Jan. 7 and Feb. 2) and Manogue (Jan. 25 and Feb. 9) also are important games.
But the games on the court don’t seem as important as the games within. Whittell seems ready to stick to its own plans for progress.
“Our main focus for me as a coach is for the girls to have fun, for the girls to learn the game a little bit more and for the upperclassmen to want to come back next year,” Wines said.
If the squad can draw on its inner strength and achieve better living through chemistry, that’s certainly possible.
“We are all pretty tight, and we have a couple of people on the team who keep us up even if we’re down,” Fagan said.
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