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Lady Irish look to use speed as team reloads

SENECA — Veteran Seneca varsity girls basketball head coach Barb Beck says her team lost around 80 percent of its scoring from last season to graduation.

Two of those grads, 2011-12 leading scorer Alyssa Applebee and 2012 Morris Daily Herald All-Area MVP Coley Baker, topped 300 points. A third, guard Lexi Brown, came close with 270. Nobody else on the roster, including the seven players who are returning this year with varsity experience, scored 100.

With a roster lacking any players whose height begins with a 6, the Lady Irish will have a very different look to them when they take the floor Monday against Plano at Somonauk's Tim Humes Breakout Tournament than they did when they went 23-9 last winter.

"It's a whole new start for us," Beck said. "We'll be a different team and we'll have to find a way to fit in our new pieces. We'll use some different rotations. We may be more of a press team and more of an offensive team. Those are the things we're looking to do to utilize our team speed."

Seneca's most experienced returnees are senior guards Courney Helms and Chelsie McCormick. A point guard, Helms had more rebounds (86) than points (80) last season despite the fact that she stands 5-2. She also had 53 assists and 80 steals.

"I think we're gonna be an even team," Helms, who says her shooting has improved from last season, said. "Hopefully we will have a shot at being (Interstate Eight Conference) champs. It's going to be tough only having a couple of experience players like we have, but if we play like we are capable, I believe we will have a shot at it."

McCormick, an off guard coming off a 77-point, 51-rebound, 42-assist and 23-steal season, would be in favor of a more up-tempo approach.

"That's kind of my favorite, playing a fast-paced game and not slowing the game down. Playing a fast-paced game is what I feel I do the best," McCormick said. "Our mindset is that we're one big team. Last year, we were a team, too, but this year, it's more important than ever that we stay together and play together and get everyone involved."

Also back are seniors April Hovious, a 5-7 forward, Erin Hovious, a 5-6 guard, and Molly Novotney, a 5-11 post. Junior guard-forward Danielle Hauch played with the varsity Lady Irish from around Christmas on in 2011-12, and junior guard Mallory Misener also got some late-season varsity experience as a sophomore.

The rest of the roster consists of junior varsity newcomers in posts Rylee Anderson, Kayla Haines, Brooke Larsen and Ana Munoz, guard-forwards Anna Baker and Jacey Lamboley and and guards Lexi Harty and Mickey Juricic.

As of Thursday afternoon before the start of practice, Beck says she does not have a starting lineup set for the opener.

"Every day it changes. I don't have any idea who will be out there Monday," she said. "We do have a group of juniors who are coming off an excellent year at the sophomore level, but we all know it's a huge step to go from that to playing as a junior at the varsity level."

After the tournament at Somonauk ends, the Lady Irish will jump right into I-8 play Nov. 26 at Dwight. Citing its returning talent, Beck calls Coal City a favorite for the conference title, but she feels Plano, Peotone and Herscher will compete and hopes Seneca will as well.

"That's always the goal. We still have a lot of talent," Beck said. "In our conference, I look at every night as a dogfight.

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