GNADENHUTTEN -- Continued progress is the mantra for the Indian Valley High girls basketball program as coach Randy Emler enters his fourth year at the helm.
After consecutive winless seasons, the Lady Braves posted four triumphs last year en route to a 4-18 final record. That total included winning two of their final four contests and capturing the program's first tournament win in nine years as they steamrolled Buckeye Trail in the Divison III Sectional.
While the program's 4-60 mark over the past four campaigns is far from stellar, Emler points to the progress made by last year's squad which lost nine games by 10 or fewer points and lost four games by three points or less.
One challenge awating Emler is replacing two dependable scorers in departed seniors Holly Robinson and Jess Knisley. Collectively the pair averaged 15 points per outing to go along with eight boards. Robinson also was an Honorable Mention selection to last year's PAC All-Star team.
"We do have six veterans returning," Emler stated, "so we do have some experience. After those six, however, we are relatively green as far as varsity experience is concerned."
At the head of the veteran group is senior Courtney Emler (5-4 guard), a three year letter winner. A pair of two-year letterwinners return in juniors Brittiani Garbrandt (5-4 guard) and Emily Baker (5-7 guard).
Another pair of juniors have one letter each to their credit -- Katie Shamel (5-8 forward) and Paige Saho (5-6 forward). The final returning letterwinner is sophomore Sydney Kandray (5-7 guard).
Two more sophs -- Kara Barger (5-8 guard) and Abby Rentsch (5-8 forward) -- along with freshman Courtney Mizer (5-9 forward) complete the current varsity roster.
So far, Emler likes what he has seen in practices and scrimmages.
"We should be an improved shooting team this season with three potentially good outside shooters," he said. "We put in a lot of hard work this past summer and shot a lot. Lack of outside scoring hurt us last year, especially against zone defenses.
"We have real good team speed also, so I am hoping we can play a little more up-tempo," Emler continued. "My concerns right now are lack of depth and rebounding because we're not terribly tall."
The Lady Brave jayvee roster includes sophs Alicia Jenkins (5-7 guard) and Breanna Rennard (5-9 forward) along with freshmen Brooklyn Affolter (5-5 guard), Morgan Matlick (5-5 guard), Sydney Sayre (5-4 guard), McKenzie Higgins (5-8 guard) and Taylor Harris (5-8 forward).
The new 22-game 2012-2013 schedule has the usual PAC foes plus non-league clashes with Newcomerstown (twice), Coshocton (new), Claymont (twice), Sandy Valley (new), Ridgewood and Tusky Catholic.
"We're hoping to move out of the PAC basement this season," Emler said, "and get competitive with the likes of Tuslaw, Fairless and Timken. The other four PAC schools will be real strong and I suspect that Tri-Way will be the team to beat."
Assisting Emler at the high school level this year are Brian Emler, Todd Gardner, Kelsy Emler, Megan Holmes, Caitlin Winrod. Jeff Baker and Jeff Struchen will handle middle school coaching duties.