For the first time in nearly 20 years, Kirtland’s girls’ basketball team has a new head coach but the expectations remain the same.
Brittany Zele is in her first year at Kirtland after spending two years at Andrews-Osborne, where she compiled a 36-8 record. She inherits a program that returns two full-time starters and another that started a handful of games last season for the Hornets, who finished 18-6 overall and 12-2 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division.
While the Hornets are learning new schemes on offense and defense, Zele isn’t interested in changing the expectations of the program.
“I believe any team that undergoes a transition period of a coaching (change) will have a few more challenges towards the beginning. I am extremely proud of the girl’s attentiveness, efforts, and willingness to give trust in someone they have only known since May,” she said. “I predict we may struggle offensively at the beginning of the year but we will compete in every game. Since our team is made up of mostly soccer players, they have only been with us a few days since they made a deep tournament run. Our end goal is our own tournament run and having months of experience working together. I am confident we will be able to achieve the goal of two postseason wins.”
Kirtland was without several key players who helped the Hornets reach the Division III soccer Final Four for the third consecutive season.
That leaves the Hornets with just two full weeks of practice before the season opener on Nov. 23.
“Offensively, the girls are learning to run motion offenses which forces them to read and react to what the defense gives,” Zele said. “Currently, the girls are waiting for someone to take charge instead of developing an attack/scorer’s mentality. However, they are extremely intelligent and are getting more experienced every day.”
Kirtland once again will use its athleticism and aggressiveness, especially on the defensive end of the court.
The Hornets’ offense will flow through senior captains Lauren Snyder and Julia Camino, a pair of returning starters.
“Lauren is co-captain this year of the team. This was an easy choice because her dedication to the team and sport is seen throughout the community. Lauren is a threat on both ends of the court and continuously challenges herself each day to get better. She is a great role model for our younger players and I am confident this will be a breakout year for her,” Zele said. “Julia is co-captain this year for the team. Like Lauren, this was an easy decision early on. Julia has been to every workout over the summer and in the preseason and has proven her commitment to the program. She is extremely intelligent and is developing into a fierce offensive threat. Julia will be a player to watch this season.”
Juniors Amber Yurick and Haley Coso and sophomore Reilly Greenlee round out the projected starting lineup.
“Reilly is the definition of a workhorse. She goes all out in every sprint, drill, and play. She pays attention to detail and applies what is taught. I am very excited to see how she progresses in her sophomore year,” Zele said. “Amber is one of the most physical players I have coached. She doesn’t shy away from contact and is fearless in every position. She will be one of our most effective defensive threats. She wants to be the best she can be and puts in the extra work. She will be someone we rely on heavily this year. Haley is one of the smartest girls on our team. With each drill, she is able to make the connection to where it will be used in our offense. She has the potential to take over games and I am excited to watch her develop into a powerhouse.”
Juniors Leah LaVerde and Brooke Alfieri and sophomore Macy McIntosh will provide the Hornets with quality depth.