Coming off a tough 0-23 season a year ago, Newcomerstown High head coach Tripp Hisrich hopes that the tough lessons learned last season translates into victories for the Lady Trojans this season on the basketball court.
Hisrich, who enters his fourth season guiding the NHS girls' basketball program, welcomes back eight letterwinners this season, including his entire starting five from a year ago.
"I think we learned a lot from last year and it's already showed this year in the scrimmages we have played," Hisrich explained. "We have shown some strides in several areas. Our turnovers have been down and we have played much more aggressively than we did last year.
"We still have a long way to go....we know that," Hisrich added, "but at this point, I feel we are ahead of schedule and that's encouraging."
Last season's starting line-up of seniors Amber Kennedy (5-6, G), Sam Watson (5-7, F) and Paige McMullen (5-4, G) along with junior Karlee Peach (5-9, F-C) and sophomore Susannah Hall (5-6, G) all return for the Lady Trojans.
Although at this point, however, Hisrich feels this year's starting line-up is still being decided and subject to change, but that starting experience is still a plus for the Orange and Black.
Peach was Newcomerstown's leading scorer last year at a modest 6.6 points per game and she also led the way in rebounding at 7.5 boards per outing. McMullen was next for NHS at 4.0 ppg, with Watson checking in at 3.4 ppg.
"Karlee does a nice job for us inside the 'paint'...we just need to get her more looks," Hisrich said. "Susannah will be our lead guard and we will be counting on her to get the offense moving and spread the ball around for us."
Offense was a constant problem for the Lady Trojans a year ago as they averaged a meager 22.8 points per game as a team -- a mark Hisrich hopes to improve upon this time around.
"We really need everyone to step up on the offensive side this year," Hisrich said. "We don't have a lot of size, so we need to get some penetration to create some openings for some easy baskets."
Yet another offensive problem for the Lady Trojans last year came at the charity stripe where they shot just 41 percent as a team.
"We really need to improve at the foul line. Forty-one percent is just not going to get it done," Hisrich said. "If we can bump that mark up and then convert more consistently inside the 'paint', we can bump up our offensive production."
Other returning letterwinners for the Lady Trojans are senior Tanisha Grewell (5-7, F) along with sophomores Brittney Lowry (5-6, G), and Brittnay Hennis (5-8, G-F).
"Hopefully, with that many girls back that played together last year, our chemistry will be much better," Hisrich related. "Even though we struggled last year losing 23 games, we got a chance to play together and hopefully that will be a big plus.
"Despite the tough year, this group kept working hard and always gave good effort," Hisrich said. "That says a lot for these girls and they have come out with that same positive work ethic this year. I'm very pleased with our effort and work thus far. These girls want to get better and are willing to put in the work."
Hisrich said that added depth for the Lady Trojans could come from some talented freshman who will also see time at the junior varsity level.
Hisrich pointed to freshmen Kayla Gibson (5-8, G-F), Brittnay Roth (5-3, G) and Amaris Wells (5-2, G-F) as players who will see floor time with the varsity.
"We definitely have two or three freshman who will see the floor with the varsity," Hisrich said. "With the way we want to play, we will run 10 kids in there and we will look to push the ball up the floor and play an up-tempo game. We have some decent athletes; we just need to keep the floor balanced and need everyone to step up their game."
Rounding out the Newcomerstown JV roster are sophomore Genin Balajadia (5-5, F), and freshmen Brea Garretson (5-7, G-F), and Lyssa Canales (5-5, F).
Ashley Parson will serve as Hisrich's JV coach, with Chuck Peach serving as a volunteer assistant coach. At the junior high level, Mario Lovrinic will be the eighth grade coach with Autumn Nelson guiding the seventh grade team.
A veteran of Inter-Valley Conference basketball, Hisrich said the league looks stronger than ever.
"I've been in the IVC all my life....first as a player and now as a coach," Hisrich stated, "and I've never seen the IVC as deep as it will be this year. They are just no pushovers. Each night out will be a true battle."
Hisrich feels at the top of the IVC will be Garaway, Hiland, Malvern and Ridgewood entering the season.
"You have to start with Hiland and Garaway as always," Hisrich said. "They just both have great programs and always are in the mix for the title.
"Ridgewood has a lot of size back and got a good transfer in (Cambridge transfer Audrey) Tingle," Hisrich added. "Malvern returns a lot also and then I could see Sandy Valley and TCC (Tuscarawas Central Catholic) making a push maybe."
Hisrich has a rather simple goal in mind for his Lady Trojans squad -- compete.
"Our number one goal is to be competitive each and every night we take the floor," Hisrich said. "We want to keep taking strides forward and compete on a regular basis. If we can do that, we have a chance to pick up some wins along the way. It won't be easy as we will have our work cut out for us, but I'm confident these girls will give their best effort."