NEWARK – Last season, Newark had the best girls basketball record, 28-2, in its history. The Lady Norsemen won the Little Ten Conference season and tournament championship.
Now, Newark begins this season with a new starting lineup and a new head coach. Brian Holman, an assistant for the past five years under Dale Skelton, now his successor. Holman’s current starting lineup before Somonauk’s season-opening Tim Humes Breakout Tournament, which starts Monday, remains a work in progress.
Holman said he has plenty of options, including a number of girls who played under him – and won, at the sophomore level.
“I have people ask all the time, ‘What do you have back?’ And you say you lose everybody, and I mean we did, but that makes it sound like we don’t have anybody in the gym for practice,” Holman said. “I put 16 girls on my varsity roster. ... One all the way down to 16’s pretty close. I got an idea, but nothing penciled in.”
Three seniors figure to play big minutes in the frontcourt. Kristine Zitt and Alexa Myre will be posts, and Lindsay Larson will also play at forward. The battle for playing time at guard is more wide open. Sarah Bogden and Lexi Zeznanski are among the options, Holman said, but likely starters are undetermined.
“I know I’m going to have to step up and be a leader this year,” Larson said. “I’m going to have to be an example for the younger girls on and off the court. A lot of people are underestimating us because we graduated six seniors, and I want them to know we’ll be just as strong as last year with the team we have.”
The players and coach may have changed, but Newark will retain its familiar 2-3 zone and its high-low offense, Holman said.
“We’re doing a lot of the same things Dale had done in the past, just because it worked and there’s no reason to switch it,” Holman said.
Larson hopes the Lady Norsemen can replicate their unbeaten season in the Little Ten Conference from a season ago, and advance further than the sectional semifinal round of the postseason. Holman thinks Serena will be the conference favorite entering the season, but Newark should be competitive.
“I’d be doing a disservice to the girls to say that we don’t fit in the top half,” Holman said. “In that top half, there’s four teams that could beat anybody on any given night.”