In one sense, the 2013-14 Morris varsity girls basketball team will very much resemble the team that produced a 6-21 overall record last winter.
Four of the Redskins’ 2012-13 starters – guards Jessica Ponce, Leona Burton and Julie Jurasits and post Katie Friend – return. The fifth projected starter, senior Jade Fisher, also was part of last year’s varsity team. Everyone else on the roster – senior Ashley Bojovic, juniors Emily Burling, Bridget Gile, Tiffany Gonzalez, Alexis Halcomb, Alex Kjellesvik and Bryn Taylor, and sophomores Jessica Jurak and Devin Pancheo – played at some level within the program last season.
Not only will those players be a year older and a year more experienced, they will be deployed differently. First-year coach Kate Carey said the Redskins will be a schematic mix of the concepts they used in the past and new ideas that stress a higher tempo.
“I coached under Luke Windy for five years, so I’m going to continue on with a lot of the things we’ve done for the past five years,” Carey said. “There’s some changes that are gonna be made. Look for a more exciting game, a more fast-paced game.”
Jurasits has noticed Carey’s emphasis on pushing the ball, along with a few other subtle differences, early in practice.
“I think with us hustling up and down the floor, I mean, we’ve been working on that. So I think that’ll help a lot,” Jurasits said. “Just even off and on the court, the bench, they’re cheering us on, and I think that’s good to have, and even on the court, we’re talking and being positive.”
The time Carey spent as a lower-level assistant under Windy, plus the return of varsity assistant Brian Stone, has kept some sense of continuity in place.
“As far as practice goes, the intensity is pretty much the same,” Friend said. “It’s a different style of coaching a little bit, but besides that, the girls are still really excited about it, and practice has been pretty good.”
The Redskins have suffered some injuries already, which has made it difficult for Carey to determine a rotation beyond her starting five. Two players have been impressive and figure to challenge for playing time.
“I really have high expectations for Alex Kjellesvik and Devin Pacheco,” Carey said. “Everyone’s working hard. Everyone’s fighting for spots. That is a work in progress.”
After a 19-victory season in 2010-11, the Redskins have won a total of 13 games during the past two seasons. Players who were part of the last season’s losing record think a turnaround is very possible.
“The past seasons have been rough,” Jurasits said. “The past few years, we’ve had problems with girls, and I just think we have a good group of girls this year. I think that that’s gonna change a lot.”
Specific win totals and specific championships have not been established as goals for Morris, but Carey said her expectations are high within the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East and outside of it.
“Our goal is the moon and back,” Carey said. “The Thanksgiving tournament we play in [at Prairie Central], we wanna win it. The Christmas tournament we play in [at Ottawa], we’re playing it to win it. We get to postseason, we’re planning to go as far as we can.”