Waubonsie Valley, in the words of coach Dave Owles, endured “a limp to the finish line” last winter.
That was literally true as the Warriors, decimated by injuries to nearly every post player, finished with just six wins and now have won only 10 games over the past two seasons.
It has been a frustrating couple of years for the Warriors, for whom injuries and inexperience have added up to a lot of growing pains.
But Owles believes the team is growing.
“We had a lot of opportunities to play together in June,” Owles said. “They were able to spend a lot of time together as a team learning to bond. They’re still a relatively young team.”
Indeed, the Warriors graduated only two players, one of whom was co-MVP Andrea Colin. The rest of the roster is filled with familiar faces, though many of them spent plenty of time on the bench in street clothes thanks to a variety of injuries.
Chief among them is senior Taylor Ameri, a 6-0 forward who should be one of the team leaders now that she’s healthy. She is the only holdover from the squad that went 25-3 in 2011-12, though she didn’t see much action that year.
“This will be her fourth year on varsity,” Owles said. “She had a rough year with injuries last year that took away from her junior year. She’s been working hard and I think she’ll have a good senior year.”
Senior forward Abby Phillips and junior guard Abbey Glavin will be counted on to play bigger roles next winter, while 5-8 junior Caroline Church could be the top newcomer. Owles plans to use her at shooting guard and both forward positions.
“She’s worked hard on her game and shown a lot of improvement,” Owles said. “She’s a very smart player so we can play her both inside and outside.”
Two other talented athletes are senior point guard Emma Rigby and junior forward Jordan Masiak, both of whom are better known for their soccer prowess.
Masiak is coming off an injury and was with the team in June, but Rigby, an All-Midwest goalie who has committed to Iowa, chose to focus on soccer this summer.
“We hope she decides to come back,” Owles said of Rigby, who was the team’s leading rebounder despite standing only 5-4. “She was our starting point guard and co-MVP with Andrea.”
The Warriors are currently healthy except for sophomore forward Katie D’Ouville, who is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered at the Christmas tournament.
But good health is just one of the things the Warriors need. High on Owles’ wish list is an effective offense. Waubonsie struggled to score 30 points in most games last season.
“Our big emphasis has been having every one of the players work on their game,” Owles said. “They realize the only way we’re going to be a better team is if we all become better individually.
“They’ve taken that to heart and are working hard. Some of them are getting individual instruction, especially offensive skills, working on their shooting and being better ball-handlers.”
Then there is the motivation that comes from enduring two forgettable seasons.
“We seem to be going in the right direction,” Owles said. “We’re fortunate in that we get to keep a large number of girls from last year.
“They all have experience and they say, ‘All right, what do I do so we do not repeat that.’ I’m pretty optimistic about where we’ll be in November.”