Third-year head coach Tripp Hisrich of the Newcomerstown High Lady Trojans' basketball team will not have many options as he looks to replace a valuable player from last year's team lost to graduation.
The Lady Trojans roster will be comprised of just 10 players and return just four letterwinners from last year to help fill the scoring punch lost by the departure of Allie Hinton.
Hinton was a special mention all-Ohio selection last year along with earning first team all-Eastern District, all-Inter-Valley Conference and all-District 5, gaining "Player of the Year" honors in the IVC and District 5 after finishing with a 23.0 points per game scoring average.
Hinton finished her NHS career by reaching the 1,000 point scoring plateau, including 476 points last season.
"Allie had a great year for us last season," Hisrich said. "She was definitely our go-to player and we ran our offense through her a majority of the time, so we will have to adjust and be more of a balanced attack this year."
As for the low numbers, Hisrich has a simple way to combat that problem.
"When I look at the numbers, sure I would like to have more players out," Hisrich said, "but if you have 10 or you have 30, all I want is to have five girls out on the floor giving it all they have. The bottom line is the numbers are what they are and you have to adjust, and that's what we will do.
"I feel I have 10 girls who will go out and give me all they have," the NHS coach continued, "and really, you can't ask for much more than that as a coach."
Leading the way for the returning Lady Trojans will be sophomore Karlee Peach (5-8 forward/center) who last year averaged around 6.5 points per game for NHS.
"Karlee will be our main inside player," Hisrich explained. "She doesn't have a lot of size, but is real strong and has some good footwork in the 'paint'. She will be a main focus of our offense this year and I feel she will be up to the challenge."
Tabbed to take care of the majority of the ball-handling will be junior lettermen Amber Kennedy (5-6 guard) and Paige McMullen (5-5 guard).
"Both Amber and Paige will handle the basketball for us," Hisrich said. "We will want the ball in their hands most of the time. They are both quality players and can both shoot the '3-ball' which is a plus."
The lone returning letterwinner for the Lady Trojans will be junior Sam Watson (5-6 forward).
"Sam will play a forward spot for us and looked to help out in several areas for us," Hisrich said. "She can knock down a jump shot as well and will help us out in the rebounding department."
Rounding out the NHS roster will be senior Emily Davis (5-7 forward), junior Tanisha Grewell (5-6 forward), and freshmen Brittney Lowry (5-6 guard), Brittnay Hennis (5-7, forward), Susannah Hall (5-5 guard), and Jailyn Perez (5-4 guard).
Hisrich feels that a trio of those youngsters could see extended playing time for the Orange and Black this season.
"I think that Brittnay Hennis, Brittney Lowry and Susannah Hall could all three contribute this year," Hisrich said. "They all three are talented players and we will need for them to adjust quickly to the varsity level."
In pointing to an area of team strength entering the new season on the hardwood, Hisrich pointed to the team speed as an asset for Lady Trojans.
"I feel one of the strong points for us will be team speed," Hisrich offered. "We have 10 kids who can get it out and go, so we are preaching on getting the ball to the basket. We don't won't to be flashy, just consistent and balanced in what we do.
"We have changed our offense around to take advantage of our speed," the Lady Trojans' coach continued. "We want to spread the ball around and use that speed advantage to get to the basket."
In looking at the race in the IVC, Hisrich feels it will once again feature perennial powers Hiland and Garaway.
"Once again, you have to start with Hiland and Garaway at the top," Hisrich said. "They just have great programs in place and are always tough. Ridgewood lost a good player but will be big again and a tough match-up. Sandy Valley and Tuscarawas Central Catholic should also be improved.
"We know going in every night in the IVC will be tough," he continued. "We will just go out and work hard and compete....hoping to continue to improve each night out and build for a tournament run at the end of the year."
Hisrich's coaching staff includes varsity assistant Ashley Parson and volunteer assistant Chuck Peach while at the junior high level, Mario Lovrinic will coach the eighth grade team and Amber Gibson will lead the seventh graders.
With the small numbers, the Lady Trojans will not field a junior varsity team this season.
"A lot of people are not giving us much of a chance to win this year," Hisrich said, "but we are going to continue to work hard. It's a step-by-step process to build a program and that's what I'm trying to do here at Newcomerstown. We have a lot of young players who will get thrown into the fire this year and we need them to grow up quickly and perform for us."
Newcomerstown hosts neighboring Indian Valley on Saturday, to open the new season.