While they may be smaller in stature this year, quickness on the court should be an asset for the Muskie junior girls' basketball team.
The two-time defending NorWOSSA champs have been hard at work throughout their tryout practices so far and Muskie coach Gord McCabe has been evaluating the talent as best as he can to get the black-and-gold ready for the NorWOSSA season-opener on Sept. 17 in Kenora against the Broncos.
“After three tryout sessions, where we spend a lot of time evaluating talent, we will begin our season preparation in earnest on Tuesday, which leaves us only four practices before our first league game in Kenora,” he told the Times on Monday.
“We will be introducing a system which will be focused on speed and defence. For the first time in a number of years, we are not blessed with a lot of height, but we have excellent team speed and hope to use that to compensate for any height disadvantage we may encounter,” he noted.
“That could take some time and it is possible we may start slowly, but I like what I have seen from the girls thus far.”
McCabe said that he is mainly focusing on defence at this point, and that he sees a lot of room for improvement there.
“If we learn to defend, and don't give up too many second-chance points, we should be just fine,” he reasoned.
“As my teams always do, we will look to run and push the ball up the floor at every opportunity.”
The Muskies have seven new faces on the squad this season, including Heaven States, Grace Smith, Monika Ruppenstein, Serena Teeple, Emily Fitzgerald, Sydney Anderson, and Tiereny Rousseau.
States is a Grade 10 rookie, with McCabe noting that she was on track to make the team last year but then decided she wanted to focus on her school work.
The other six are all Grade 9s, who McCabe said “show a lot of potential but may take some time to adjust to high school basketball.”
Back from last year's team are Anna Gagne, Ayiana Gagne, Tatum Glowasky, Kathryn Fischer, Joyce Wu and Emma Yerxa.
“They have all shown dramatic improvement over last year,” McCabe lauded.
A new change to the NorWOSSA 'AA' division has seen the Sioux Lookout Warriors promoted from the 'A'-level, meaning Fort High now will have three opponents to face in league play.
McCabe believes that's great for the league and he also is unsure of what to expect in league play this season.
“You never know when a school is going to suddenly have an influx of talented Grade 9s,” he reasoned.
"Sioux Lookout joins the 'AA' league this year, which will make for a nice change from playing Dryden and Beaver Brae all the time but I have no idea what to expect from them in terms of talent.
“Junior basketball is a program designed for player development and I am not really going to get too worried about the other NorWOSSA teams,” he stressed.
“Our goal is to be the best team we can be and if that is good enough to win NorWOSSA—that would be great. If it isn't, as long as the girls are improving, and having fun, that is fine with me as well.”