West Geauga returns two starters from last season and four others with varsity experience but the Wolverines will be tested early and often with a challenging schedule this winter.
Add into the equation a coaching change and the Wolverines have their work cut out for them.
“Our conference will present a number of different challenges this season and our non-league schedule is competitive as well,” said head coach Brandon Stewart, who is in his first year as the school’s athletic director and girls’ basketball coach. “We want to make sure that we develop our players both on and off the floor and have them peaking at the right time when the postseason is here.”
Stewart, who coached at Hathaway Brown last season, inherited a team that finished 7-5 overall.
“I think that we are doing an outstanding job of learning a new system and playing at a faster tempo,” he said. “Our players have really bought in from day one and we continue to get better with each scrimmage against some really good competition.”
The Wolverines opened the season on Tuesday with a 57-53 loss at Mentor. They’ll get a chance to bounce back with a Friday matinee at Madison.
Stewart will lean on his upperclassmen to set the tone for the rest of the squad.
“I think our strength will come from our upperclassmen and how they approach each day,” he said. “Our defense has really been our strong point through the preseason and will need to continue to do so and help us translate it into offense.”
West Geauga’s returning starters are senior Grace Wolfe and junior Alexa Hocevar.
Wolfe is a 5-foot-10 guard who earned honorable mention All-Chagrin Valley Conference honors last winter. Hocevar is a 6-foot-1 guard who was named first-team all-conference as a sophomore.
“Grace is a tremendous shooter. She can hit the three-ball from a variety of different spots on the floor and is continuing to get better at putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim and drawing contact,” Stewart said. “Alexa is a complete player on both ends of the floor. Her ability to score at different levels and defend multiple positions will be a big key for us going into this season.”
Senior Megan Zebrowski, junior Haley Ottman, and sophomore Maggie Furst round out the projected starting lineup.
Zebrowski is a 5-foot-10 sharpshooting guard. Ottman is a 5-foot-8 guard, and Furst is a 6-foot-1 post/forward.
“Megan is a very good 3-pointer shooter. She has the ability to stretch the defense with her shooting and will help us in our offense,” Stewart said. “Haley is a quick, versatile guard that can handle the ball and knock down the 3-pointer. Her on-the-ball defense is tremendous. Maggie is a strong presence inside, both on the offensive and defensive side of the floor. Her ability to finish around the room with both hands is a huge plus for us.”
Senior guard Rae Ehrbar and junior guards Ashlyn Drayer and Grace Laster will provide the Wolverines with quality depth.
“Our keys to victory this year will start with our defense. The better defense we play will lead to how good our offense is,” Stewart said. “I think we will face challenges early on with six of our first seven games being on the road. We are going to have to learn to win together as a group away from home and that takes a lot of extra focus and attention to detail.”