It's that time of year again and you can bet both the Muskie junior and senior girls' basketball teams are itching to get their seasons started.
Led by head coach Angela Petsnick and assistant Gord McCabe, the junior squad has seen higher numbers try out than for the senior one—forcing some difficult decisions when it came to naming the roster.
“We did make some cuts," McCabe noted yesterday. ”There was a list posted this morning but we still got a couple of cuts to make.
“With junior girls, you want to take your time," he stressed. ”You want to make sure you give the kids every opportunity to show what they can do because if they get cut in their first year of high school, often they don't come back.
"So you want to the decision as best as you can.
“Do you ever make a mistake?" McCabe mused. ”I'm sure that possibly we do but I don't like rushing into making cuts after one or two practises.
“So we try and give everybody at least three, and sometimes four or five.”
McCabe also said they believed the squad would be playing in a tournament in Dryden this weekend but it was cancelled, forcing the coaches to scramble to find some exhibition games prior to the NorWOSSA regular-season opener here next Thursday (Sept. 20) against the Eagles.
“We're scrambling to get some exhibition games in Thunder Bay so they could travel with the seniors, but that's still up in the air whether it's going to happen or not,” he noted.
McCabe, meantime, has been impressed with the talent level he's seen at the junior level so far and believes his squad will fare well this season.
“We've got a good core back," he remarked. ”We've got six players back from last year's team and I've seen some real talent in some of the Grade 9s that have come out.
"I'm pretty optimistic that we're going to have a pretty solid junior team.
“Aurora Hutton, Rebecca Jourdain, and Joanna Empey will be relied on for leadership and I think it's going to be a pretty solid group,” McCabe lauded.
As for the senior squad, which McCabe is the head coach of this season and Petsnick will be assisting, he noted they also look solid thus far.
“The senior team, we're going to be quite young," he conceded. ”A lot of kids moved up from last year's junior team and we had a pretty good season last year.
“We're going to be young," he reiterated. ”But I like what I see from that team, as well.
“The girls are really dedicated and because of the fact that I worked with them in junior, there's probably going to be a little more continuity for them,” McCabe added.
“Every player on that team I've coached before," he noted. "We know each other, and I know what to expect from them and they know what to expect from me.”
McCabe, who said he's “really looking forward to the season,” has his eyes on some players he believes will be leaders for the squad this year and thinks they will help guide the black-and-gold to success.
“On the senior team, I think I'll be leaning on both the Petsnick sisters, Ellie and Grace. They are going to be key to our success,” he stressed.
“Sarah Larson, we're going to need her to be a force up front," McCabe added. ”She's got to assert herself underneath the basket.
"Beyond that, we're really looking for balance.
“We've got a lot of guards that we think are going to be interchangeable, which will allow us play an up-tempo game,” he said.
“And as they get used to the transition from the junior level to the senior level, they'll play a lot faster, I think, and start to come into their own.”
McCabe said that with the later start to the school year, it will be more challenging to get both the senior and junior squads up to game speed, but they won't be using that factor as an excuse in the early going.
“We're going into a Thunder Bay tournament this weekend and we'll have had about, what, two practises last week and four this week?” he noted about the seniors.
“So we've only had six practises to prepare but yet the playing field is level,” he stressed.
"The same thing is true with every other team so you're probably going to see some other teams that are going to be a little bit raw.
“But in terms of challenges, we're healthy, we know what it is we want to do,” McCabe added.
“It's just a matter of continuing to work on our execution.”