GNADENHUTTEN -- Coming off of a 4-19 season, Indian Valley High girls' basketball head coach Randy Emler wants his team to remain positive and continue to play hard.
"After last year, we want the girls to stay confident," Emler stated. "We want to encourage the kids to do better and work hard."
The record was not what they were looking for, but they battled all season long with a never give up attitude.
"We had some good seniors last year," Emler noted. "There were some close games that we just could not find a way to pull out in the end."
Those three players no longer on the roster due to graduation are Sydney Candray (16.5 ppg), Allicia Jenkins and Stephanie Karnes.
"Candray was our leading scorer and set many school records for us," the Lady Braves' coach shared. "She did it all, she had a nice three-point shot, she could attack the basket and she could even kick the ball out to get everyone involved."
With that leadership missing from the line-up, the Lady Braves will have to look to their new senior leader, two-year letterwinner Courtney Mizer (5-8, forward).
"Mizer averaged about 6.5 points per game a season ago," Emler offered. "She will bring the experience to the table that is needed to lead this team."
Junior Megan Baker (5-10, forward), is another talented returning letterwinner that IVHS is going to rely for rebounds and some inside scoring, while fellow junior and returning letterwinner Alisha Garabrandt (5-5, guard), is also a skillful scorer who can greatly contribute.
"Strength-wise, our three lettermen will have to lead us in scoring and the team overall is working hard," Emler said.
There are some fresh faces this year as well that look to bring something new to the team including junior Trisha Kohl (5-5, guard) and sophomore Rylie Byers (5-5, guard).
Sophomore Brianna Stephens (5-8, forward) is expected to be in the post for the Lady Braves as seeing playing time last year.
"Other than our three returning lettermen, Stephens has the only varsity experience on the team," Emler shared.
Rounding out the sophomore class are Alex Corra (5-10, forward) and Bayli Conner (5-5, guard).
Two incoming freshmen projected to see playing time for the varsity squad are sisters Kiarra Rakestraw (5-7, forward) and Kittana Rakestraw (5-7, forward).
"We're going to be playing some young kids and we will be relying on them," Emler said. "The two freshmen, Kiarra and Kittana, are very athletic and can get up and down the floor.
"They will be a little raw at first," he continued, "but they will gain valuable experience quickly."
With a good mixture of young athleticism and talented leadership, Emler and his squad are looking to set the bar higher and improve on last year's record.
"We are optimistic that we can get over the .500 mark this year," he said. "We need to get better defensively and we are going to work on getting better every night."
It won't be easy as the Indian Valley has some stiff competition in the Principals Athletic Conference.
"Tuslaw has mostly everyone coming back this year with a good supporting cast and will be the favorite to win the PAC this year," Emler stated. "I also look for Manchester, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and Tuscarawas Valley to be strong.
"It is a very competitive conference and we are going to have to fight every night for the victory," he added.
Taking over as the junior varsity head is former Lady Brave herself, Jen Simmerman.
The JV roster includes senior Smantha Smith (5-6, forward); juniors Sydney Scott (5-10, forward) and Taylor Sprowl (5-6, forward); and and sophomores -- Baylie Connor (5-5, guard) and Lynnsey Erb (5-4, guard).
Five freshmen round out the squad -- Ashton Warner (5-7), Shaylee Shepherd (5-5), Raegan Wires (5-2), Morgan Spillman (5-5) and Kierston Dorto (5-6).