LUCASVILLE – After falling just shy of their bid for a sectional title a season ago, the 2019-20 Valley Indians girls basketball team is hoping to make strides towards their goals with a strong returning crop of talent and new pieces for head coach Mark Merritt and his staff to experiment with.
“Practices have been going fairly well to star the year,” Merritt said ahead of the Indians season. “With the early start to the year, we’re trying to get in what we need before we start playing, and the girls are responding well.”
The key piece to the Indians team is senior Bre Call, a second-team all-district member a year ago after averaging 14.2 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, and 2.1 steals per game. Senior Karsyn Conaway is also a returning starter for the Indians entering the ‘19-20 season.
Fellow seniors Brooklyn Buckle and Nichole Gilliland also make up the Indians returning pieces who consistently saw varsity minutes from last year’s sectional runner-up team.
“We’re definitely looking to them being our leaders on the court this year,” Merritt said. “Bre’s (Call) going to be our leading scorer, there’s no doubt about it. But Karsyn (Conaway) is going to have to pick up some of the slack because I’m sure we’ll see defenses try to key in on Bre. Brooklyn (Buckle) has done a great job to start the year, she is our defensive specialist: she works hard and she guards people.”
Sophomore McKenna Dunham will likely round out the Indians starting lineup for the ‘19-20 season after an excellent season at the JV level a year ago, according to Merritt. Senior MacKenzie Wright, and juniors Caitlin Kennard and Natalie Buckle will also be rotation pieces for Merritt’s Indians entering the season.
Sophomores Haley Whitt and Rylee Johnson, and freshmen Lucie Ashkettle, Bella Fultz, Savannah Easter, and Madison Montgomery round out the Indians roster for the coming year.
In addition to their usual SOC II schedule, Valley will play a non-league game against Paint Valley to open the season as well as non-league games vs. Manchester, Clay, Adena, New Boston, and Notre Dame as they hope to improve on last season’s sectional runner-up finish.
“I feel like any three teams in our league can be in the top three at any time,” Merrit said. “Every SOC match is going to be a dog fight. Hopefully we can have one of those top spots at the end of the year, and we also want to have a deep tournament run. I think I’ve got a deeper bench this year, but we’ve got some kids who are unproven right now, so we’ll have to see how they respond as the season goes on.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved