New Metea Valley girls basketball coach Cedric Williams waited a long time to secure his first head coaching position.
Williams had 15 years of experience as an assistant coach in basketball and football at several schools before being elevated to head coach when Kris Kalivas stepped down following the 2013-14 season.
Kalivas ushered in the Metea Valley program and went 61-58 in five seasons. The Mustangs went 16-16 and stunned Bolingbrook to win their first regional championship last season.
But Williams isn’t nervous about following Kalivas since he’s been with the program since its inception, first as sophomore coach for two seasons followed by three more as the varsity assistant.
“It’s been a great opportunity for me,” Williams said. “I’ve been an assistant in basketball and football for a long time, so it’s a dream come true.”
Williams inherits a team coming off a roller coaster season that saw it start strong and finish well but struggle mightily in between.
The Mustangs graduated only four players, but three were starters, including do-everything leader Jenny Voytell, who has taken her talents to Wheaton College. Voytell averaged 15.5 points, nearly double anyone else on the squad, and was a Naperville Sun First Team All-Area pick.
“We lose a lot of points and lose a lot of leadership with her,” Williams said. “We need to find that leadership.”
Williams thinks he’s found a new leader in senior guard Lisa Logan, who was Voytell’s backcourt mate last winter. Voytell carried a huge work load on her shoulders and that burden might end up being transferred to Logan.
“Lisa Logan will be that person we’re going to ask a lot of,” Williams said. “She’s got to wear a lot of different hats on the court for me with scoring, ballhandling and leadership.
“She’s been putting in the work in the weight room and the other players are seeing that. I think the young kids are buying into that.”
One of those young players is sophomore guard Nikki Cast, who was a top reserve as a freshman.
“Nikki Cast is another player who will step up,” Williams said. “She’s really coming along with her shot.”
But the strength of the team could be in the post, where the Mustangs finally have some decent size. Junior TaSeandra Parker is only 5-7 but is a tough-nosed rebounder, and she will team with another returning player, 5-11 sophomore Courtney Morgan.
Morgan won the shot put state championship and was second in the discus at the state track meet and figures to be a physical presence in the paint, where she will be joined to two newcomers in 6-3 sophomore Skye Lane and 6-0 sophomore Brianna Hall.
“We’ll be good down low with those four,” Williams said. “We’re big inside so I think that will be our offensive strength.”
But the team’s real forte, as it was last winter, figures to be defense.
“With our talent level we have right now, it will be a defensive game,” Williams said. “That’s what we’ll stress. People will come into our gym and say they play tough defense.”
Playing tough defense isn’t easy, especially with a young team, but Williams believes his will succeed.
“We have a lot of young kids we’re going to ask to step up on the varsity level, so we’re getting them up to speed,” Williams said. “We’ve got some work to do but we’re excited for the year.”