After consecutive seasons that resulted in just one victory, the Newcomerstown High girls' basketball team is beginning a fresh season with a new coach.
Walt Cerralto takes over the reins at head coach of the Lady Trojans after he spent last year at Hathaway Brown High in Cleveland.
"It was a great experience with great people and I witnessed some high-profile games," Cerrato noted, "but I am very excited to be here."
That experience can pay off quickly for Cerrato, who takes over a team that lacks that experience but he has the chance to make positive changes for the program .
The Lady Trojans are a young team that lost four seniors to graduation including guards Amber Kennedy and Paige McMullen and forwards Sam Watson and Tanisha Grewell.
Cerrato is prepared to begin the rebuilding stage and believes that the first step is working hard in practice.
"If we want to change the culture here, it's going to be every day in practice," the Lady Trojans' coach stated. "We need to make sure that those lopsided losses from last year are more competitive this year.
"As far as wins and losses go, I think if we play the game the right way, they will take care of themselves," Cerrato added.
Cerrato is looking to mix youth with experience when he puts his line-up together as the varsity team consists of one senior, three juniors and four sophomores.
"We have four returning lettermen from last year," the NHS coach offered. "We have some experience and fresh faces that I am wanting to get into the mix."
Those four who will be looked to as leaders are Karlee Peach (5-10 forward) -- the team's only senior -- and juniors Brittney Lowry (5-7 guard), Susannah Hall (5-6 guard) and Brittnay Hennis (5-9 forward).
Peach paced the Lady Trojans last year as she earned an East District, Division IV honorable mention, was named to the District 5 second team and collected an Inter-Valley Conference honorable mention while Hall was selected as a District 5 honorable mention.
The sophomores who are anticipating varsity time this year are Amaris Wells (5-4 forward), Brea Garretson (5-8 guard), Brittney Roth (5-5 guard) and Kayla Gibson (5-11 forward).
Not only is Cerrato expecting his sophomores to dress for the varsity squad, he believes that they are going to make a strong impact as well.
"Amaris Wells is looking to be full-time varsity," the first-year coach shared. "Also getting some good minutes for us is going to be Brea Garretson."
Cerrato was brought in to coach late in June and, with some of the Lady Trojans playing fall sports, it was hard to get the team together for off-season practices.
"These first couple weeks of practice were really the first time we all got to meet each other," Cerrato stated. "Every day is a new experience for us right now."
The rugged schedule for Newcomerstown does not make things easier for a young team as it consists of some quality Inter-Valley Conference opponents.
"I know Hiland is always going to be right there," Cerrato mentioned. "They are a basketball factory and what they do is unprecedented in the state.
"Malvern and Garaway are also going to be really good," he continued. "There is really stiff competition at the top and there are some good teams in the middle, too.
Tuscarawas Catholic Central is always going to be talented," Cerrato added. "Hopefully we can get into the mix a little bit."
Newcomerstown has 10 girls that are listed for the junior varsity and will make their case for varsity time as the season progresses.
Sophomore participants are Destiny Grewell (5-3 guard) and Kayla Gibson who will see varsity time early in the season.
The eight freshmen beginning their high school careers are Deserae Harbold (5-2 guard), Allison Larrick (5-11 forward), Savannah Shugars (5-3 guard), Trew Davis (5-1 guard), Gabby McPeek (5-6 forward), Jade Johnson (6-0 forward), Sierra McMullen (5-4 guard) and Keyera Dean (5-4 guard).
Tyler Mason, who also coaches football, is making the transition to girls' basketball and is coaching the junior varsity squad and also helping as an assistant coach for the varsity team.
Chuck Peach, who helps out with the softball team, is also an assistant coach for Cerrato's squad.
"We want to get better every single day," Cerrato declared. "Our goal is to develop winning habits."
Newcomerstown, which opened the season Saturday hosting Indian Valley, plays its IVC opener Wednesday at Sandy Valley.