By Kevin O’Rourke
There is always excitement and trepidation at the beginning of a sports season, but when a team is coming off a successful season, the way the Seneca Valley Girls Basketball team is – team was 18-6 last season, but lost six seniors to graduation – the variables can be tough to compute. A head coach will want try to build on that success. It’s not exactly like starting over, but it’s not like picking up where you left off last year either.
“Our goals this season is to become one as a team,” said Seneca Valley Girls Head Coach Jennifer Hoffmann. “We will work on molding the new players to varsity caliber basketball. Also, we need to begin to teach this young squad our offensive and defensive systems.”
Hoffmann will look to her senior captains guard/forward Alanah Roy, guard Tiana Ware and center Ciara Pannell to be leaders in the fight both up on and off the court. She is hoping the Roy’s four years of varsity experience, and Ware and Pannell’s experience playing both varsity and JV will help mold this young team. “I'm counting on these ladies to work hard. I am depending on them to step on to the court with a good work ethic and positive attitudes. They have a lot of pressure on them this year being seniors with this young group.”
Seneca Valley’s team is comprised of six seniors, the aforementioned captains, along with guard Bailey Hockman, forward Rayana Cooke, and forward Jaleesa Gaddis. The rest of team will be comprised of one sophomore Aliah Williams and six freshmen.
The Screaming Eagles dropped their opener on Friday night with a 67-23 loss at Quince Orchard.
“Our team motto this year is Teamwork/Hard Work,” said Coach Hoffmann. “It will be very difficult to replace those graduated seniors this year. They were a very talented and athletic group who will surely be missed. I'm looking forward to developing this young group to follow in those seniors footsteps.” Hoffman said that development is going to take some time and a lot of molding and teaching the young players how to play good basketball. “With some time and experience this group of freshman will be able to develop and train together for the next four years.”
Hoffmann has high hopes that freshman guard/forward Madeline McLinden will be able to be a big contributor to the team this season, however, McLinden’s ability to contribute will have to wait as she recovers from shoulder surgery. “She is chomping at the bit to get in there and battle on the floor. She is a hustler and has a super attitude and great work ethic. She will be one to watch very soon.”
Coach Hoffman said the Eagles only sophomore Aliah Williams is developing quickly and will add to the team’s competitiveness.
“Newbies Alyssa Delgadillo and Stephanie Vigezzi are also two players who have quickly caught on to the fast paced varsity level,” said Hoffmann. “With some time and experience these young players are the new faces of SVHS Girls Varsity Basketball.”
Hoffmann said she was pleased with the dedication the young players showed in their off-season work. “A lot of the younger players worked hard this summer and fall with off-season training and conditioning. It just goes to show they have the will to work,” said Hoffman.
However, Hoffman believes that this team is capable of making a splash come playoff time in the 3A Division “This year, a lot of teams in our division are in the same boat that we are in terms of losing senior leadership,” said Hoffmann. “Many teams lost their strong players and I believe the Division/ Regional Championship is up for grabs.” But Hoffman knows that the young Screaming Eagles squad will have to work hard if there will be hope of success in the post-season. “We always look forward to playing Damascus, Poolesville and Watkins Mill, but we have huge challenges ahead of us every game, no matter the opponent, we have to prepare for a tough battle and never give up on the fight.”
This week the Lady Eagles will continue to play their Division 4A rivals by travelling to Northwest on Tuesday night at 7:00 pm and Gaithersburg on Friday, also at 7:00 pm.
Northwest meanwhile will open with Seneca Valley on Friday. Their original opener was rescheduled from last Friday to allow all athletes to watch the Northwest Jaguars football team play in the State Championship game.
According to Northwest Head Coach Nathan Lewis, the Jaguars are very much in the same boat as Seneca Valley with a team comprised of underclassmen. Lewis said Northwest will field an entire squad of JV players will play varsity as sophomores. He pointed to freshman Thara Janus as one freshman player that might be able to perform on the varsity level.
Northwest will play Seneca Valley on Tuesday and travel to Damascus on Friday night.