West Branch wants to get better
Lady Warriors letterwinners - The West Branch girls basketball team returns five letterwinners for the 2012-13 campaign. In front, from left, are Christie Sabol and Madison McCracken. In back are Brianne Nye, MeLesha Ahlberg and Janene Couteret.
Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
By Jaclyn Yingling Sports Editor
ALLPORT - After starting out 7-0 last season, the West Branch girls basketball team looked to be in position to make a nice run in the playoffs.
But the team went 6-10 after that, and fell in the first round of the district playoffs to Ligonier Valley.
This season, the Lady Warriors return five letterwinners and boast a schedule that is much tougher than 2011-12.
"The girls understand that we worked hard to build this program," said West Branch head coach Dan Socash. "And, to get to that next level we have to play some teams that are tough. If they beat us by a lot of points, we are still going to learn from that.
"In years past, average teams were beating us by a lot of points. But we have to play the good teams to get better. Even if we don't win, we want to be playoff ready. We don't want to have an elevated score or record. We want to play the toughest teams."
West Branch opens the season with Bald Eagle Area, which went 17-4 last season. Then the Lady Warriors head to the Penns Valley Christmas Tournament where they will face teams like the Lady Rams, Bellefonte and Mifflinburg.
After running the table in the Moshannon Valley League last year, the Lady Warriors are the preseason favorite heading into 2012-13.
And while Socash hopes that motivates his girls, he doesn't see it as a total truth.
"I hope that it encourages them," Socash said. "We've worked hard to get to that point. In years past, we haven't been (the favorites). I feel that anybody can beat anybody. We always just want to play the best we can every night."
To do that Socash will rely on his five letterwinners - seniors MeLesha Ahlberg, Janene Couteret and Brianne Nye, and juniors Madison McCracken and Christie Sabol.
Couteret returns as the team's point guard after scoring 10.1 points per game last season. She had an 18-point performance against Curwensville last season, and scored in double digits in 12 games.
Along with Couteret, Ahlberg (8.5 ppg), Nye (6.9 ppg), Sabol (3.0 ppg) and McCracken (2.8 ppg) look to begin the season as starters.
Nye injured her hand in a scrimmage, but Socash is hopeful she may be back in time for the first game of the season.
If Nye is unable to go, Socash will look to his bench and juniors Missy Croyle (1.4 ppg), Nichole Miller (1.4 ppg) and Taylor Kolesar, who played in just four games last season.
"It's 80 percent that it will be the letterwinners, barring injury," said Socash. "Depth will be a problem. Other than the five letterwinners and three juniors, I have five freshmen. We are going to play junior varsity with those five freshmen.
"We need to try and stay as healthy as we can. It could be a problem, but I'm comfortable with the eight varsity girls we have."
Despite only having eight girls to work with, Socash has worked with the same girls since junior high and he is confident they will be successful this season.
"We are all familiar with each other," said Socash. "They know what to expect. We have just been working hard these past few weeks.
"We have a lot of speed. We are very athletic. They are used to my system. I've had these girls for years now (including junior high), so they are comfortable with every thing we do."
With five freshmen, Socash has been working very hard on fundamentals and things he sees as issues during scrimmages and practices.
"We have been working on things that we need to improve on from last year," he said. "We want to work on those things. We just want to be better in the other things that we do. I hope we don't just become complacent.
"A lot of these teams were young and now they are catching up. I don't believe we are the team to beat. I just think these other teams have had a couple of years to mature, so they can beat us any time, just like we can beat them."
The Lady Warriors will continue to focus on winning the Mo Valley League and hope to be competitive in the always-tough Inter-County Conference where West Branch went a respectable 9-7 a year ago.
"We focus on winning the Mo Valley League and be as close as we can, and we always focus on being in the top three or four teams in the ICC," he said.
Socash will be assisted by junior varsity head coach Jane Catanzaro and volunteer assistant Dave Catanzaro.
The Lady Warriors begin the season at home against Bald Eagle Area on Friday.
Roster - Seniors
*MeLesha Ahlberg, *Janene Couteret, *Brianne Nye.
Missy Croyle, Taylor Kolesar, *Madison McCracken, Nichole Miller, *Christie Sabol.
Breanna Hayward, Taylor Pedmo, Leanna Prinkey, Jalee Rockey, Katie Trude.
*Denotes returning letterwinners.
Schedule - December
7-Bald Eagle Area; 13-Williamsburg; 17-at Claysburg-Kimmel; 19-at Mount Union; 28-29-at Penns Valley Christmas Tournament, TBA.
3-at Glendale; 8-at Harmony; 10-Bellwood-Antis; 14-at Juniata Valley; 17-Moshannon Valley; 18-at Curwensville; 22-at Williamsburg; 25-Claysburg-Kimmel; 29-Mount Union; 31-Harmony.
1-Glendale; 5-at Bellwood-Antis; 6-at Bald Eagle Area; 8-Juniata Valley; 12-at Moshannon Valley; 13-Curwensville.
All games begin at 7:30 p.m. unless noted.